‘Now it’s our turn’: Virginia sends resources to help areas destroyed by Hurricane Florence

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RICHMOND, Va. — Three more Virginia nurses are in the Carolinas Tuesday night, helping those affected by Florence’s fury.

“There are people who have lost everything,” Christine O’Connor said.

The public health nurse from Arlington County felt compelled to use her skills to give back to neighboring states. This will be the first time she’s essentially been deployed to give aid.

“The needs are not going to just be in this immediate time period, I think this is going to be a long term effort,” she added.

Some 30 nurses in total are in North Carolina to provide aid in shelters. Most of them headed down Sunday night and were greeted by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

O’Connor is expected to be in North Carolina until the end of the month.

They were organized after a request for assistance was put in through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, also known as EMAC. The team is housed in the Virginia Emergency Operations Center, below the Virginia State Police Headquarters in Chesterfield County. The center has been staffed 24-7 since last week in preparation for the hurricane.

“EMAC is a clearing house for needs so those states that are in harm’s way be it North Carolina or South Carolina this week or be it Puerto Rico or Texas or Florida last year, they request help from states that aren’t impacted by a natural disaster,” Jeff Caldwell, the Director of External Affairs for the Department of Emergency Management, said.

A few people came in from other states, like Arkansas and Oklahoma, to help the Commonwealth in preparations for Florence.

“For the grace of God we would be in the same shape that they are in North Carolina, Wilmington being under water, that could have been Norfolk or Virginia Beach,” Caldwell said. So now, it’s our turn.”

Besides the group of nurses, so far EMAC has shipped over 4,000 meals to North Carolina as well as National Guard Troops, trucks and search and rescue teams. Recovery will take time.

“They’ll still be working to bring life back to a new normal after the storm, and Virginia will work closely with them,” he added.

The remnants of Florence also spun off deadly twisters in Chesterfield County Monday. People working out of the Emergency Operations Center are on hand when they get the call.

“[Our teams] will help in accessing what damage took place, getting monetary values seeing what kind of FEMA aid or what kind of assistance is available,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell says Virginia isn’t out of the woods just yet. Hurricane season is still upon on and you at home should still be prepared.

Lorenzo Leon knows what that’s like. He works with the Department of Emergency Management and was sent as part of an EMAC team to Puerto Rico last year.

“It can happen again, it could happen next week. It happened in Puerto Rico once and then they got hit the very next week,” Leon said. “Mother Nature, she has no boundaries so just prepare yourself, prepare your family and hope for the best.”

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