PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s been several years since a hurricane pushed some locals to evacuate. If anyone could recall the day, it would be WAVY News’ former Chief Meteorologist, now Emeritus, Don Slater.

He’ll be the first one to tell you … an evacuation for our community is rare.

“For our area, it’s rare. So, what would be an evacuation situation? It would be a much stronger category one we start seeing more areas being evacuated, but likely to stay evacuated inland,” he explained. “Would we get anything approaching a category two storm, I would expect a lot more people to be evacuated… but we have not seen that in in my time at WAVY.”

Although there’s no hurricane on the horizon today, Lauren Oppett, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s Communications director, says the time to familiarize yourself with plans is now.

“The best time is to start now, so you don’t want to be making plans when a storm is is barreling down on you. If you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone, you definitely want to figure out where you go,” she explained. “We use the phrase run from water hide from wind which means we evacuate for storm surge for water and we shelter in place for high winds.”

In the event local officials did push for you to leave, how and when you do go varies depending on where you live.

An initiative by VDEM called “Know Your Zone” serves more than one million people who live in Coastal Virginia, the region of the state most vulnerable to hurricanes and other tropical storms. Twenty-three localities participate in tiered evacuation zones.

These “zones” were developed by local emergency managers throughout Hampton Roads, the Northern Neck, the Middle Peninsula and the Eastern Shore. So, how do you narrow down your zone? You can click here to see a map of where you live to determine what “zone” you’re considered to be in. That way, if and when that alert does go out, you already know which one you should look out for.

It’s not just your location, but it also depends on your health and who you live with.

How do you know when to leave? Well, local city officials and WAVY News work together to keep you informed. You can sign up for the WAVY Weather Alerts on your smartphone or tablet and get an instant notification when that warning goes out.

How else can community members prepare for a hurricane? VDEM recommends stakeholders follow along with their “Preparedness Calendar”. It can help you navigate all seasons and stay on track for natural disaster preparation steps.

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