Local emergency responders prepare for potential impact from Florence

Officials stress residents need to prepare for what could be to come

ROANOKE, Va. – From the coast to the mountains, people across Virginia are getting ready for the significant rain and damage Hurricane Florence could bring.

"There are a lot of people that are working very diligently on this, making sure that we keep Virginians safe," said Gov. Ralph Northam. "At the end of the day, that's what we're trying to do."

Northam declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth on Saturday. Local emergency responders have been busy getting ready since then.

"It actually started yesterday with conference calls with VDEM (Virginia Department of Emergency Management," said Nathan Ramsey, Rockbridge County's Fire, EMS and Emergency Management chief. "We work very closely with our VDEM representatives on communications on the forecast."

Ramsey said preparations in Rockbridge County have included evaluating where people can seek shelter if they have to evacuate, and releasing water from Lake Merriweather to help control flooding Florence could cause.

"In order to help control some of the floodwaters and for the safety of the dam, we are beginning to lower the lake levels a little bit," Ramsey said. "That way if we do get high amounts of rain, the lake can withstand it."

Ramsey also stressed the importance of not driving through floodwaters and flooded areas.

"Although there are multiple tracks, obviously we're going to plan for the worst-case scenario and hope that we actually don't have to use worst-case scenario but definitely we have to plan for that," Ramsey said.

Roanoke city officials are also urging people to be prepared.

"Regardless of the route of the storm, we need to know we're self-sufficient in our homes for 72 hours," said Marci Stone, battalion chief of Emergency Management. "Having that 72 hours of preparedness is going to be essential regardless of what the emergency is."

Stone said it's important that families have an emergency preparedness plan, as well as an emergency kit stocked with supplies such as water, non-perishable foods, a manual can opener, batteries, flashlights and other goods to survive the first days after a disaster.

"Take those actions today," Stone said."Even if we don't end up having the effects of Hurricane Florence we want you to have an emergency preparedness kit and readiness."

You can find more information about preparing an emergency kit here: https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit

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