State of Emergency in effect in Virginia as Ida response continues

Weather

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- A state of emergency is in effect in Virginia as the response to the remnants Hurricane Ida continues.

Gov. Ralph Northam first made the declaration on Tuesday, allowing officials to coordinate and mobilize evacuation resources in collaboration with local partners. 

State officials are closely watching Buchanan County in Southwest Virginia after heavy rain ahead of Ida caused severe landslides.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management Regional Coordinator Tim Estes said, based on preliminary mapping, the affected area includes 336 homes. He said 10 were completely swept away and are nowhere to be found. He estimated 50 or more suffered major damage. 

As of noon, Estes said one person was unaccounted for. At that time, he said there had been about a dozen rescue evacuations and roughly 50 voluntary evacuations as officials fear continued rain from Ida will cause more landslides. 

Estes said the severe weather also destroyed the power and water infrastructure in the area.

“This is probably going to take 5 years or more to get back to whole in my opinion,” Estes said. “I have been doing this for 38 years, I have never seen anything like this.”

The Virginia National Guard was deployed to the county to assist with transportation of food and water. They have also helped evacuate 12 adults and 2 children to safety, according to a press release.

On Wednesday, soldiers were also on standby in Winchester and Fredericksburg. 

Neal Sutliff, an Executive Officer with the 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said they spent the morning staging trucks capable of high water transportation and chainsaw teams for clearing debris.

Sutliff said the soldiers left various jobs on short notice to help prepare for Ida’s impacts.

“We have first responders, police, EMTs, long-haul truck drivers, entrepreneurs and store managers,” Sutliff said. “We always welcome the opportunity to support Virginians.”

“Please take all of those warnings seriously and use caution and prudence and then, if an emergency situation arises, please contact your local first responders for the emergency services,” he continued. 

The largest impacts are expected along I-81 and I-66 corridors, according to Northam’s office. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation is warning drivers across the state to stay alert for road hazards like fallen trees and downed power lines. 

VDOT is also reminding people not to attempt to drive through water-covered roadways. 

VDOT Assistant Communications Director Emily Wade said, as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 40-50 roads were either closed or under advisory.

“Crews continue to monitor conditions statewide and respond to adverse conditions. Locations with highest impacts will be staffed overnight to respond to fallen trees, rising stormwater and flood damage,” Wade said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, tornado watches have the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on high alert. 

“A lot of these are just pop ups that can come up very quickly and so we don’t want people to see the sun shining and think that they can go outside and do activities without having a way to monitor the weather,” said VDEM Communications Director Lauren Opett. 

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