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Area prepares for Florence

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Hurricane takes turn, but could still bring heavy rains to already saturated region

UPDATE

• Grayson County schools will be closed on Tuesday.

• Carroll County Public Schools will be on a 2-hour delay Tuesday.

 

UPDATE

The National Weather Service office in Blacksburg reported the following 48-hour rainfall reports at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 17, from the remnants of Florence:

Carroll County

• Laurel Fork: 5.65”

• Lambsburg: 3.86”

• Hillsville: 3.62”

• Fancy Gap: 3.24”

• Woodlawn: 2.80”

• Byllesby Dam: 2.74”

• Regional Airport: 2.35”

• Laurel Fork: 1.95”

Galax

• Galax Water Plant: 4.81”

Grayson County

• Independence: 4.05”

• Baywood: 3.83”

• Whitetop: 3.47”

• Rugby: 2.64”

• Volney: 2.60”

 

P { margin-bottom: 0.08

 

UPDATE

• A flood warning has been issued for Carroll County until Monday at noon.

• Galax City Schools will be closed Monday.

• The Grayson County Sheriff's Office reports that the low water bridge over Little River on Cold Springs Road is now impassible. Reports of downed trees and power outages.

• Carroll County Public Schools will be closed Monday, Employee Code 0.

• The Red Cross shelter for Carroll County has been relocated from the VFW to the Hillsville Pentecostal Holiness Church. Should you need assistance, call (276) 730-2999.

• New River was still in its banks as of 3 p.m. Sunday, but is rising. Use caution near the river and other bodies of water.

• Grayson County Administrative offices will be closed Monday. Emergency personnel are to be on standby.

UPDATE

• According to Galax City Manager Keith Barker at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, latest estimates called for 5-9 inches of rain, beginning tonight, with winds picking up. The majority of the rain is expected to fall between Sunday afternoon and Monday evening, Barker said. “Galax, Carroll, Grayson and Floyd will be the hardest hit with rainfall,” he noted. “Water at the Carrico Bridge in Galax is currently at less than 2 feet,” said Barker. “It is expected to crest at 15.5 feet at around noon on Monday.” Barker said that swift water rescue teams from out of state are staged at Pulaski and Bristol, and the National Guard in Pulaski is on standby.

• Grayson County has opened a Red Cross shelter at Independence Rescue Squad located at 182 West Main St. in Independence.

• Carroll County has declared a state of emergency and opened a shelter at the Hillsville VFW.

• The New River is forecasted to begin rising mid-day on Sunday and quickly rise to a crest of 15.5 feet by Monday. Major flood stage is 14 feet. Grayson County Officials are encouraging residents in the flood plain to monitor the situation and have a plan for evacuation. Move vehicles and equipment to higher ground. The county has opened a shelter at Independence Rescue Squad for anyone in need of sheltering.

UPDATE

• Grayson County has declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm. Grayson County Schools are closed on Monday.

• The Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia Creeper Trail and the Jefferson and George Washington national forests are closed until the storm passes.

• Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but is still expected to bring heavy rains and high winds to the area on Sunday and Monday.

ORIGINAL STORY

Hurricane Florence may have been downgraded to a Category 2 storm and its path is now expected to take it more to the south, but the Twin Counties is still likely to experience heavy rains and strong winds this weekend.

The National Weather Service expects Florence to make landfall today, Friday, in South Carolina; after that, meteorologists say the slowing storm could stall inland and dump several inches of rain on the southeast.

For Galax and Carroll County, already feeling the effects of last weekend’s flash floods, more rain could bring more damage. With the ground already heavily saturated, the predicted 5 to 6 inches of rain could overflow storm drains, culverts and creeks.

Police Chief Rick Clark is the emergency services coordinator for the City of Galax. According to him, the Galax Recreation Center on South Main Street is the city’s emergency shelter, but it will only be opened as needed; citizens should not head there in anticipation of a crisis.

Further, he noted, “If they’re not a resident of the city, they should check with the county in which they reside before they seek shelter.”

In case of emergency, the city will use Everbridge (a reverse 911 notification system), Nixle text alerts and updates on the Galax Police Department and City of Galax’s Facebook pages.

With Everbridge, “we can go into a neighborhood that’s been evacuated, and if they have a landline number, we can send an alert.”

In case of power loss, said Clark, “We would seek to aid people who have medical needs that require power.”

However, “If they reside in the city, they’re not going to lose water,” said Clark. “We may ask people to conserve water, but water will flow through pipes; the system is gravity-fed,” not relying on pumps. “The city has capability to process wastewater.”

The city is still operating under the state of emergency that was declared during last weekend’s flooding.

Galax schools operated normally on Friday, but by 5 p.m. Sunday, school officials said a decision would be made whether to open Monday.

It’s important for citizens to not call 911 “unless it’s a true emergency,” said Clark; all non-emergency calls should go to the police department’s main number at (276) 236-8101.

Twin County Regional Hospital

Twin County Regional Hospital is also preparing for the hurricane; according to a statement released on Wednesday afternoon,

The hospital has already initiated its emergency response plan.

“Extra staff will be available to accommodate higher patient volumes and to support the transfer of patients to neighboring facilities, as needed,” the statement said. “Hospital leaders are working around the clock to ensure that the facility will have the appropriate capacity and supplies to continue caring for patients and supporting staff in the days ahead.”

It also states that TCRH is collaborating with the Southwest Virginia Emergency Management Office to keep up with developments and will issue “appropriate response protocols and provide updates to the community. The facility intends to share regular updates via media alerts, its website and social media platforms,” about any challenges that may affect any of its patient care services.

Perhaps most important, “The community should be advised that, in the event of a widespread power outage, the hospital has the ability to generate its own power, as needed.”

TCRH, including its emergency room, are open and operational as normal, but the hospital urged patients who have appointments with any of its clinics to call and confirm if they will be open.

Patients are urged to check the hospital’s website (tcrh.org) and Facebook page for updates throughout the storm.

Carroll County

Carroll County Fire & Rescue and Emergency Medical Services have begun preparation for potential hurricane danger by having equipment readily available.

The Grover King VFW Post 1115 has been designated as an evacuation shelter in Hillsville, and will be operated by the American Red Cross.

The Hillsville Pentecostal Holiness Church has also volunteered to use parts of the church buildings for shelter. The Hillsville Police Department, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department and Carroll Fire & Rescue will continue monitoring areas with substantial flooding and checking on residents that are in impacted areas.

Specialized emergency search and rescue dive teams and equipment will also remain on standby during the storm.

Emergency protocols will be relayed by use of emergency notification services, including text message alerts through Nixle.

All who are not already registered are encouraged to do so by Carroll County Emergency Management. Reportedly, this type of service allows agencies specializing in public safety to triangulate critical areas for specific alerts as it pertains to pending safety concerns for that area. Anyone can sign up to receive messages from Nixle by texting their zip code to 88877.

Citizens are also advised to utilize 911 services in the event of dangerous situations rather than trying to reach shelters by their own means.

Grayson County

County officials and first responders in Grayson have spent the week tracking and preparing for the storm; but as of Thursday, the county did not expect to declare a state of emergency.

Deputy County Administrator Mitch Smith said Wednesday that County Administrator Bill Shepley had met with Grayson’s Emergency Preparedness Team several times throughout the week, and that another meeting was scheduled for Friday morning.

“[Mr. Shepley] does not expect to declare an emergency at this point, or open any shelters, but they will be on standby,” Smith said.

Matthew Adams, Independence Fire captain and Independence Police sergeant, said the town had taken extra precautions by testing and preparing water and sewer backup generators.

“They are filled with fuel and ready to go,” Adams said.

The police department has also put extra officers on standby, if needed.

Fire departments are also ready to go. In Independence, Adams confirmed that all saws, generators and other equipment have already been prepared and loaded in their vehicles in case of an emergency.

In Fries, Fire Chief Chad Stanley shared that his department will have crews at the fire station all weekend, ready to respond.

“We have made necessary preparations and are ready to respond wherever we are needed,” Stanley said.

Before the storm, Smith suggested that citizens take precautionary measures such as filling cars with fuel, stocking fuel for generators, filling important prescriptions, fully charging all electronic devices, filling bathtubs with water for flushing commodes (if they are on a well system), having cash on hand in case there are no ATM services and stocking up on necessities such as bottled water.

The county provided the following list of emergency shelters that would open if a state of emergency was declared at any point this weekend:

• Mountain View Church — 112 Mt. View Rd., Independence; 200 person capacity;

• Baywood Search and Rescue — 47 Cross Roads Dr., Galax; 20-25 person capacity;

• Rugby Rescue Squad — 53 Rugby Road, Mouth of Wilson; 50-60 person capacity;

• Elk Creek Rescue Squad — 9109 Elk Creek Pkwy, Elk Creek; 50-75 person capacity;

• Independence Rescue Squad — 182 W. Main St., Independence; 30-35 person capacity;

• Fries Fire Department — 615 W. Main St., Fries; 40-50 person capacity

Troutdale Fire Department — 291 Ripshin Rd., Mouth of Wilson; 80 person capacity;

• Mt. Rogers Fire Department — 16309 Highlands Parkway, Whitetop; 50-75 person capacity;

• Fairview Ruritan Club — 2265 Fairview Road, Galax; 700 person capacity.