HAMPTON -- Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) says changes to the state's hurricane preparedness plan will help people respond to an emergency and get back to their lives as soon as possible.
During a news conference at Fort Monroe in Hampton on Thursday, he said 'We have many strengths when it comes to hurricane preparedness, but also a number of challenges that we must meet head on.'
The revised hurricane evacuation decision-making timeline includes the following key actions prior to the onset of tropical storm force winds (39-73 mph):
-96 hours Initiate deployment of state resources for evacuation activities
-72 hours Recommend first call by the governor with chief local elected officials concerning evacuation plans and activities (previously occurred at the -48 hour mark)
-48 hours Recommend start of mandatory evacuation for a Category 3 hurricane (previously occurred at the -38 hours mark)
Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said lane reversal takes 600 people to do. He said VDOT remains prepared to do it, but it is a last resort.
'While this change may provide up to an additional 12 hours for deciding evacuation issues, it depends on a clearly defined storm track and intensity analysis several days before landfall,' said Virginia Department of Emergency Management State Coordinator Jeff Stern. 'Last July, Hurricane Arthur rapidly increased from a tropical storm to a Category 2 hurricane only 14 hours prior to landfall in North Carolina, which would have left little time to evacuate a large coastal population like Hampton Roads prior to the storm's arrival if one had been needed.'
The Bowers Hill interchange in Hampton Roads requires immediate improvements to enable efficient evacuation, Gov. McAuliffe stressed.
McAuliffe, along with Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran and Secretary Layne, discussed a hurricane in-season review that was led by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
McAuliffe added, 'If we ever needed to order an evacuation, we now have tools to help target this effort and ensure the public is aware.'