Update at 11:55 a.m. — Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has declared a state of emergency in advance of the hurricane.
Arlington County is bracing for impacts from Hurricane Irene.
Irene, which is expected to be the strongest hurricane to hit the Northeast in decades, could bring torrential rains and high winds to the Mid-Atlantic region Saturday night and throughout the day on Sunday. In anticipation of the storm, the county is “mobilizing both people and equipment,” according to Jack Brown, Director of Emergency Management for Arlington County.
The police, fire and parks departments will be bringing in additional personnel this weekend, Brown told ARLnow.com. The county’s 911 call center will also have additional employees on hand, and the Office of Emergency Management will be staffed throughout the weekend.
County crews are cleaning out drains to ensure the expected heavy rains will be able to flow into storm sewers. The parks department is removing picnic tables and other equipment from areas near streams and river beds, in anticipation of flooding. The county is also “developing plans for shelters, if the need arises,” according to Brown.
The county and Dominion Power both say they’re preparing for downed trees and power lines in the hurricane’s wake. The county has backup communications systems — including satellite phones and amateur radio stations — in case cell phones or existing radio systems go down during the storm.
“It could be challenging, yes, but since 9/11 a lot of steps have been taken to ensure better communications,” Brown said.
Most importantly, says Brown, Arlington is working to get information about hurricane preparedness out to the public.
“The first concern is the public safety,” he said. “If we do have impacts from this storm, people need to be prepared for that… It’s all about personal and family preparedness.”
Brown said any sort of evacuation of Arlington looks unlikely at this point. In fact, he’s encouraging people to stay at home.
“In most cases, people are better off just staying home and hunkering down,” Brown advised. “Don’t go out on the road… just have enough food and supplies to weather the storm.”
“We don’t want people out in the middle of a crisis getting in the way,” he added.