Flash Flooding, Tornadoes Still a Threat In Virginia

Sep 14, 2018

Credit National Weather Service

Flash flooding and isolated toranadoes spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Florence remain a threat in Virginia.

Updated 5:55 p.m. Monday

Chesterfield County officials have confirmed at least one fatality after a tornado collapsed a building.

Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond have both given the all clear to faculty and students.

Updated 5:20 p.m. Monday

A Tornado Warning still is in place for the Richmond area, with reports of damage coming in.

As a result, the University of Richmond has cancelled all activities, including classes, until the storm passes.

This is a developing situation.

Updated 4:50 p.m. Monday

Isolated tornadoes continue to be a concern across the state, especially the eastern half of Virginia. Several storms, including one over the Richmond metro area, received Tornado Warnings from the National Weather Service.

Due to the tornado threat, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma has placed the eastern half of Virginia, including the cities of Richmond and Fredericksburg, under a Tornado Watch until 10 pm.

Further west, Steve Keighton with the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg says that a slight tornado threat does exist, but those chances go down entirely by midnight.

Instead, Keighton says the primary concern in the coming days will be local rivers due to heavy rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Florence.

"Needless to say that rainfall is running off into the rivers and some of them are in the flood stage or approaching flood stage, and the Dan River is expected to likely reach major flood stage later this week."

So far, some of the highest rain totals from the storm reported so far at around nine inches occurred in Floyd and Patrick Counties.

In Roanoke County, officials have allowed a local emergency declaration to expire. However, local public safety personnel will continue to monitor water levels and local neighborhoods for any potential flooding issues.

Updated 11:45 a.m. Monday

A Flash Flood Watch is in effect for the Interstate 64 corridor, including the Richmond area, as heavy rain bands from what was Hurricane Florence move northward across Virginia.  That watch is in effect until 8:00 p.m.  Other Flash Flood Watches for the western part of the state are also in effect through late Monday evening.

A tornado may have touched down near the town of Boydton in Mecklenburg County Monday morning.  The National Weather Service office in Wakefield issued a tornado warning around 10:30. Law enforcement reported seeing a tornado on the ground and there is some damage reported.

Updated: 8:30  a.m. Monday

Many of the Flash Flood Warnings that were active overnight for areas along and south of Route 460 including Roanoke, Lynchburg and Danville are expiring. The National Weather Service reports 9 to 10 inches of rain has fallen in the southwest part of Floyd County.  Numerous roads are closed from Bent Mountain southward past Floyd.

Check the latest road closures here

Steve Keighton with the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg, said the widespread heavy rain has moved out of the hardest hit areas.  Additional bands of more isolated rain and thunderstorms could develop Monday afternoon, though.  He also said there was a slight risk of isolated, short-lasting tornadoes.  River flood warnings are likely to continue into Tuesday.

Along with those bands of rain has been wind.  And that has led to a growing number of power outages. About 8,600 customers of Appalachian Power are out right now, mostly in Carroll, Grayson, Floyd and Roanoke Counties.

Check on and report power outages here

Updated 7:45 p.m. Sunday

Officials at the National Weather Service continue to keep a watchful eye on the remnants of Hurricane Florence, as the heaviest preciptation looks to move through portions of southwest and southside Virginia tonight and early Monday morning.

Gusty winds and even an isolated tornado cannot be ruled out for the region. All eyes are now on local rivers, which are expected to surpass flood stages due to the rain.

Major flooding conditions along the Dan River are likely, while the New River could see minor to moderate flooding. The Roanoke River may also experience minor flooding conditions.

Due to potential flooding conditions, the American Red Cross will keep several of its area shelters open.

Lloyd Long is the manager of the shelter at the Berglund Center in Roanoke.

"Right now we are having meals brought in daily, breakfast, lunch and dinner for the clients -- hot meals instead of sandwiches or heater meals. We have plenty of water, snacks and anything else and somewhere to stay for people to stay dry."

The Red Cross has a few other shelters across the region, including locations in Natural Bridge, Dublin and Independence.

Updated: 5:00 p.m. Sunday

The expanded flash flood watch includes Bedford, Charlottesville, Staunton and Lexington and is in effect through Monday evening.  A Flash Flood Watch along the Blue Ridge south of Roanoke and in the New River Valley went into effect Saturday.

Two to six inches of rain is possible through Tuesday morning with the potential for ten inches in scattered areas along the southern Blue Ridge. Forecasters also say there’s a slight threat of an isolated tornado through Monday, especially in areas along the North Carolina line.

The Dan River is forecast to reach major flood stage Monday into Tuesday.  Moderate flooding is forecast for the New River.

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea gives an update on storm preparations Sunday afternoon.
Credit David Seidel/Radio IQ

The Roanoke River is now forecast to crest about a foot above flood stage in Roanoke. While that’s a bit of a relief, Mayor Sherman Lea this afternoon urged residents to be cautious.  "At this time, there is no need to evacuate areas in the flood plain," Lea said in a Sunday afternoon news conference.  "However, residents who live in flood plain areas are urged to prepare in anticipation of flash flooding."

A regional Red Cross shelter is open at the Berglund Center in Roanoke.  It’s available to anyone needing assistance, not just Roanoke residents.  Seven people and one pet were utilizing the shelter Sunday afternoon.  Emergency Planners said they anticipated some evacuees from North Carolina, but they had not materialized, so far.

Floyd County officials asked residents in flood prone areas to voluntarily evacuate Saturday.

Lauren Yoder is Director of Emergency Management in Floyd.  He said as of early Sunday morning, about 300 residents had taken to higher ground as part of the county's voluntary evacuation.  Yoder said the latest briefing from emergency management officials called for about 7 inches of rain in his region, and that most of those who have left home are now staying with relatives or friends.

"They really don't want to go to a shelter, or something like that," he said.  "A lot of people have some type of plan.  I talked to a gentlemen Saturday that had a barn up on the hill above his house, than he could go to if there was bad weather, and he needed to get out of the house quickly."

Click here to for a list of open shelters organized by the American Red Cross

Roanoke County officials declared a local state of emergency Saturday afternoon.  They say it will make it easier to respond to dangerous situations, should they develop. Numerous other localities have already declared emergencies.

Roanoke officials urged residents living in flood prone areas to prepare for flooding and be ready to evacuate.  For those who want to leave ahead of the rain, the Red Cross opened a shelter at Roanoke's Berglund Center.  Pets are welcome.  People are advised to bring the own bedding and medication.

Governor Ralph Northam lifted the evacuation of Zone A in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore as of 11:00 Friday morning.   “The imminent threat of coastal flooding and high winds have passed for our coastal communities as Hurricane Florence has made landfall in the Carolinas and we believe it is safe for Virginians to begin returning home,” Northam said in a statement.

Individual local governments will coordinate the return of evacuees, based on road conditions and flooded areas.

Meanwhile, resources in other parts of Virginia are being readied to respond to needs in harder hit areas of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Carilion Clinic's hanger in Roanoke is full with one of its own helicopters and four from other states awaiting further instructions from FEMA.
Credit David Seidel/Radio IQ

One of Carilion Clinic's Life-Guard helicopters and its crew are on standby, as part of an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Despite the uncertainty of their final destination, crewmembers are ready to fly south for as much as a week.  "We're going to go do what we do," says flight nurse Sid Bingley.  "We're going to move patients from hospital to hospital.  If we're needed to do scene responses, we'll do that."

Carilion's Life-Guard program director Susan Smith says the healthcare system's two other helicopters will be available for local needs, in addition to critical care ground transportation.  "We are also going to get heavy winds and rain so we may not have been flyable during this time anyway.  So we will be prepared," Smith says.

Carilion is also temporarily housing four other medical helicopters from other states while they wait for the weather to clear and further instructions from FEMA.

(Two of the helicopters, including the Life-Guard crew, got orders Saturday afternoon to reposition to Greenville, North Carolina.)