With potential record floods in this weekend’s forecast, Carroll County is preparing to make sure it’s ready for what’s still expected to be several inches of rain from Friday to Sunday.
While the East Coast prepares for Hurricane Joaquin, Carroll County and the Town of Hillsville are doing everything in their power to be prepared for the storm. After sitting in on a web seminar sponsored by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on Thursday, Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner said everyone in the area needs to be preparing for the worst.
“The advice they gave was if you were affected by the last rainfall (on Tuesday), if you’re creeks were up and affected, you should be making plans and moving out of the area now because they expect the same thing and more,” Gardner said. “You should be moving because they are expecting record flooding.”
Gardner noted that the ground was dry when Tuesday’s rain hit, so water had places to go. But now that flooding has already taken place and the ground is soaking wet, there is nowhere left for water to go.
“They said this will impact the entire area the next four days. They were very confident there would be flooding in the rivers and creeks, and most streams would leave their banks in the next 48 hours,” Gardner said. “They are thinking the hurricane will most likely stay (toward the coast), but the problem with that is then we will get a lot of wind and rain. That leaves the potential for hundreds and thousands of trees to come down.”
There will also be widespread threats of mudslides and rockslides, Gardner added. If you live in a low-lying area or floodplain, you need to have a plan to get out, he said. Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office is coordinating with other local emergency officials on emergency plans.
“We have a plan if we have widespread power outages for shelters. We will do what we can to get the word out,” Gardner said.
If you are traveling this weekend and come to a flooded road, Gardner has some simple advice – TURN AROUND AND GO THE OTHER WAY. The Sheriff got a first-hand look at some of Floyd County’s flooded roads this week when Carroll officials were dispatched to there to assist.
“They told us to go on Indian Valley Road and we went on through parts of Montgomery County. We ran into a tremendous amount of water,” Gardner said. “My fear is all those places that were soaked then, now we are going to get an even bigger rain on top of that.”
The biggest danger that could face Carroll from the impending storm is trees. The ground is already saturated, Gardner said, and the trees still have leaves on them, which make them more top heavy.
He said the Sheriff’s Office will have extra patrols this weekend in case people need generators for breathing machines. If you have an emergency with a breathing machine, call the Sheriff’s Office at (276) 728-4146 and they will try to get to you, he said.
The Sheriff’s Office has also made contact with Carroll County High School about being a shelter in case there is a major emergency event, and places like Sky View Missionary Baptist Church in Fancy Gap for smaller events. He stressed those places would not be open, however, unless they are needed.
For major emergencies, Gardner said to call 9-1-1, but to call the Sheriff’s Office (728-4146) for lesser emergencies so 9-1-1 doesn’t get bogged down with calls for power outages and things of that nature. He also advised citizens to stock up on food and emergency supplies before the storm. Also, he asked that citizens please check on elderly folks or others who may need help during the potential storm.
“If you know someone who needs help, please check on them or call us and we will check on them. Don’t put yourself in danger,” Gardner said. “On the web exercise we listened to, they told us this would impact the entire area, and for some places in Virginia it will be a career-defining moment. They want to make sure everyone is prepared because there is a great possibility of record flooding everywhere in the state of Virginia.”
The Sheriff’s Office will have some MREs to feed a few people for a short time if there are power outages, he said. There will also be HAM radio folks preparing in case the power goes out.
“A lot of people are paying attention to this storm,” he said.
Meanwhile in Hillsville, Mayor Greg Crowder said the town has done everything in its power to minimize damages to the town and danger to citizens. The town has visited with the Virginia Department of Transportation to see what they are preparing for and what the town needs to take care of. From there, he said Town Manager Retta Jackson has checked on plans for scenarios such as possible trees in the road, washed out culverts and those types of things. Hillsville Police Chief Wesley Yonce is preparing for power outages, with his department ready to check on elderly citizens on oxygen in case the electricity does go out.
Meanwhile, Crowder said the Hillsville Pentecostal Holiness Church on Virginia Street is prepared to open as an emergency shelter Friday to Sunday if necessary.
“We have prepared as much as humanly possible,” Crowder said.
Carroll County Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Mock said his department has already been in contact with the Department of Social Services and Red Cross identifying where shelters may be set up if the demand is large enough. He said Carroll EMS has also coordinated with the sheriff’s office on what to do for any type of necessary evacuations.
“We have preplanned together and we hope we don’t have to do anything like that,” Mock said. “But we want to go ahead and check all our equipment and generators to make sure everything is ready, trying to be proactive.”
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has sent out the following suggestions to residents of the Commonwealth.
* Download the free Ready Virginia app for iPhone® and Android™, which features a customizable emergency plan, a checklist for gathering emergency supplies and an “I’m Safe!” feature that allows you to quickly send a text message to let family and friends know you are safe.
* Decide how and where everyone will meet up with each other if separated.
* Choose an out-of-town emergency contact for your family and give that person’s phone number to each family member.
* Sign up for text alerts/weather warnings that may be offered by your locality.
Prepare for flooding
* Know the weather terms and what you should do:
* Flood Watch or Flash Flood Watch: There is an increased possibility of flooding or a flash flood in your area.
* Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will likely occur very soon. If emergency officials advise you to evacuate, do so immediately.
* Flash Flood Warning: Flash flooding is occurring. Seek higher ground immediately – don’t wait for official instructions.
* Be prepared to evacuate. If evacuated, don’t return to your home until local officials say it is safe. After floodwaters recede, roads could be weakened and could collapse. Buildings might be unstable, and drinking water might be contaminated.
* Use common sense and look for information. If water is rising quickly or you see a moving wall of mud or debris, immediately move to higher ground.
* Do not walk through moving water. Look for areas where the water is not moving. What might seem like a small amount of moving water can easily knock you down.
Drive safely * Know the road conditions before you travel. Go to www.511Virginia.org or dial 511 from any phone for real-time traffic information and road condition reports.
* Do not drive into flooded areas. If your vehicle becomes surrounded by rising water, get out quickly and move to higher ground, if possible.
* Flood water might cut off access to roads. Be prepared to stay where you are until floodwaters recede.
* Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local media to know when flood watches and warnings are issued.
* More flood preparedness information is available at www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/stayinformed/floods.
* If you need help, information or resources during or after the storm, call 211. Those with hearing impairments can call 711 to connect to the Virginia Relay Center for assistance with the call. Videophone users may dial 1-800-230-6977. * www.vaemergency.gov – go online or on your smart phone for statewide storm updates