CHARLESTON – Gov. Jim Justice has declared a State of Emergency for all 55 West Virginia counties due to the increasing threat of flash flooding and severe storms from now-Tropical Depression Ida.
“All West Virginians need to absolutely be ready for the potential impact Ida may bring to our state,” Gov. Justice said. “West Virginians should pay extra close attention to emergency officials and media outlets. And please: do not endanger yourselves, your loved ones, or our first responders by trying to drive through flood waters.”
According to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service, a nearby cold front and the impending arrival of Ida will begin to spark periods of moderate to heavy rain today.
Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are expected to occur through Wednesday, with locally higher amounts of up to 6 inches possible. West Virginia has received several inches of rainfall recently, which has primed soils and rivers for potential flooding.
The State of Emergency allows state agencies to coordinate ahead of a possible weather event, including by pre-positioning personnel, vehicles, equipment and other assets.
The following is a summary of current preparations by various State agencies:
West Virginia National Guard:
“We are currently deep into planning and bringing online personnel, equipment and additional assets that are typically in high-demand during flood events,” stated Lt. Col. Walter “Wally” Hatfield, Director of Operations. “With Ida posing a risk to the entire state, we are working closely in support of the West Virginia Emergency Management Division to stand up a whole-of-government response. Coordinating with the State Emergency Operations Center, multiple Community Assistance Teams and Liaison Teams of Guard personnel are being strategically positioned throughout the state to assume a proactive posture providing assistance to local communities as quickly as possible should we be called on to do so.”
“Gov. Justice has initially authorized State Active Duty status for up to 60 Guardsmen, and we are ready to activate as many as is needed should conditions deteriorate rapidly,” said Hatfield. “Our top priority is always the safety and survival of our fellow West Virginians, and we will do everything we can to meet any challenge Mother Nature might throw at us in the next 72 to 96 hours.”
West Virginia Emergency Management Division:
Emergency Management staff will operate the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) on 12-hour shifts, with coordinating agencies on standby. The SEOC will monitor for overnight updates, including weather forecasts as well as river and stream level reports, and relay any alerts to the SEOC.
EMD is also hosting twice-a-day virtual briefings with the National Weather Service for county and local emergency agencies statewide. These briefings provide the latest Ida forecasts and operational updates, among other information.
EMD has been in contact with all county emergency management agencies, with no unmet needs or resource requests reported at this time.
West Virginia Division of Highways:
District Engineers and District Managers in all 10 West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) districts were meeting with county administrators in their districts to brief them and ensure all counties are prepared to deal with heavy rainfall.
Employees will be on 24-hour standby through the duration of the weather event. Standard DOH storm protocols include making sure all equipment and vehicles are gassed up and ready to go and stored out of low-lying areas. Highways districts also have fuel reserves on-hand to fuel vehicles and equipment of the West Virginia National Guard if the Guard should be mobilized for flood response.
DOH is paying close attention to weather reports and stands ready to deal with any emergencies that may arise.
Portions of FEMA Region III – which includes West Virginia – have received several inches of rainfall over the past two weeks from Tropical Storm Fred, Hurricane Henri, and other systems, which has primed soils and rivers for potential flooding.
Local rises on creeks and streams and resulting flash flooding is anticipated. In addition to the flash flooding threat, there is a potential for some flooding on main stem rivers by midweek where the heaviest rain falls.
Gusty winds and thunderstorms are also forecast as Ida passes through the state. Tornadoes are possible Tuesday night in southeast West Virginia and Wednesday in the Eastern Panhandle.
Isolated power outages are also possible due to gusty winds that may exceed 30 miles per hour and saturated soils.