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Hurricane Ian could bring heavy rain and flooding to Virginia

In Norfolk, public works crews are fueling trucks, filling sandbags, and clearing storm drains.

NORFOLK, Va. — As Hurricane Ian makes landfall on the Florida coast, Virginia is bracing for heavy rain later in the week, and emergency crews are already preparing.

Alana Smith of Norfolk Public Works said her team is tracking Ian’s path and clearing storm drains in flooding hotspots.

“East Ocean View, Ghent, Downtown, Brambleton. Those areas flood a lot so that’s what they’re focusing on right now," Smith said. “We plan for something to flood so we can go and address it, if and when it happens. Because we can get water pooling just from a regular storm," Smith said.

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Ian's remnants will now move north and bring moisture through parts of the East Coast. Hampton Roads will likely see rain and some wind this weekend as the storm gets absorbed by a cold front and stalls over western Virginia.

Our area is in for several inches of rainfall, according to Dr. Jessica Whitehead, the Joan P. Brock Endowed Executive Director of ODU’s Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience.

“If you know that you live in an area that floods, have a plan if you need to put it in action on Friday night and Saturday. If you happen to use sandbags, if you know that you need to move your car. Know ahead of time that you may need to put that plan into action.”   

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Showers should develop through the day Friday and a wet and windy day Saturday. Four to eight inches of rain is possible across the area through next Tuesday, with some locations picking up even more. Heavy rainfall could cause fresh-water flooding in some areas. 

Dr. Whitehead also said that high tide is expected on Saturday afternoon. That, combined with several inches of rainfall, could mean flooding in low-lying areas prone to ponding.

RELATED: Know Your Zone: Hampton Roads eyes potential impacts from Hurricane Ian

“On top of the rain, we have the winds. So we have a high pressure sitting up over New England, that’s going to lead to onshore flow and that pushes the water in from the Atlantic into the Bay. On top of that, it’s a new moon. So we already have higher than normal astronomical tides. So what that adds up to for us is watching the tidal flooding impact as we come into the weekend,” she explained.

With all that in mind, Smith with Norfolk Public Works said that in the days ahead, emergency crews are also fueling trucks and filling sandbags.

"They’re training some of these new staff on something called a rod machine," Smith said. "A rod machine – in layman’s terms – it twists down into the storm drain and it unclogs material from the storm drain and that’s going to help mitigate flooding so you don’t have water backing up into our storm drain system."

Crews in Virginia Beach are also preparing for the storm. The city’s emergency management coordinator, Danielle Progen, said in a statement that it’s still too early for her team to “predict with any certainty” the impacts of Hurricane Ian, but crews are checking on and vacuuming storm water drains, pump stations, drainage ponds, and low-lying areas.

Progen said city crews are preparing for “a number of scenarios.” She said her team will have a clearer picture of what needs to be done, within the next two days.

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