PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – On Monday Gov. Ralph Northam issued a mandatory evacuation of Hampton Roads and Eastern Shore residents living in Zone A areas, in preparation for the potential impacts of Hurricane Florence. But what happens if you choose not to evacuate?
Zone A comprises the most flood-prone areas in the region, including neighborhoods in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, York County, James City County and the Eastern Shore.
Ignoring a mandatory evacuation issued by the governor is a misdemeanor crime — but Virginia State Police troopers won’t be going door-to-door to make sure residents leave.
Local authorities say they won’t be coming to people’s homes demanding that they evacuate, either.
“We will not be knocking on doors or seeking out people that have not adhered to the evacuation order, or issuing citations,” Virginia Beach Police Department Master Police Officer Linda Kuehn wrote in an email.
“Evacuation is a personal choice that families must make,” Kuehn continued. “The recommendation to evacuate was made due to the severity of the potential threat.”
But criminal charges aren’t the only possible consequence of not evacuating, police and fire officials say.
Norfolk spokeswoman Lori Crouch said that residents who do not evacuate Zone A will likely not receive help to move if they call 911 after Hurricane Florence begins.
“If someone chooses to stay in their home, we will not risk their lives or the lives of public safety personnel to move them during the storm,” Crouch said.
Crouch added that residents who don’t evacuate should prepare to be “self-sufficient” for the first three days after the hurricane hits.
“Utilities, electricity, water and phone service could be damaged and unavailable for extended periods of time, and high winds and water could isolate those residents for long periods of time,” Crouch added.
Similarly, officials in Virginia Beach, Newport News and Hampton said that police and fire services may not be able to respond to emergencies during Hurricane Florence if conditions are severe.
“The bottom line, if you refuse to heed the mandatory evacuation order, we cannot guarantee your safety or that we will be physically able to respond to your call for help,” said Virginia Beach Fire Department spokesman Art Kohn. “That is why we urge everyone to leave if they are ordered to do so.”