In preparation for the possible arrival of Hurricane Isabel this week with high winds and torrential rains, the city is ready with flood prevention methods along the Potomac River. Gov. Mark Warner has declared a state-wide emergency; Fort Belvoir and the Alexandria Chapter of the American Red Cross have provided tips on survival; and Inova Blood Services has issued a call for blood supplies.
Alexandria is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
The tidal Potomac floods when there is a large amount of rain. Parts of lower King Street are under water, and old sewers are unable to handle the water from the combined storm and sanitary system that still exists in parts of the city. City staff are encouraging citizens to get prepared for a hurricane that could affect the weather here late Thursday into Friday.
Richard Baier, director of Transportation and Environmental Services, also serves as the incident commander for the potential storm.
“Right now, we could see wind gusts of up to 85 or 90 miles an hour,” Baier said. “Citizens should be prepared for a tidal surge just before Isabel passes near us, for high winds and for heavy rain. The tidal surge could come six to 12 hours before the main storm, which could last 12 hours, and then we could have an additional six to 12 hours of bad weather once the storm has passed to the north.”
Baier urged people to take appropriate precautions. “If you live in a flood area, be aware of the possibility of high waters and sewer problems,” he said. “All citizens should park their cars on high ground and secure anything that is not well-attached to your house, such as loose shutters. In cases where there are high winds, we often have downed trees and power lines. This is particularly problematic now because we have some very mature trees and the ground is already wet from the rainfall that we have had this year.”
The city began operating a 24-hour information number on Wednesday, Sept. 17. That number is 703-838-4800.
Also, beginning Sept. 17, sandbags were available for city residents and city businesses. Sandbags were distributed at Pitt and Gibbon streets, King and Union streets, Glebe Road and Commonwealth Avenue.
The city has stationed public works trucks at strategic locations such as fire stations and hope to clear debris from catchment basins, roadways and bridges.
Residents are urged to listen to radio and television broadcasts for hurricane updates and check the city Web site for local updates concerning city services and the operation of emergency shelters. Everyone should bring in garbage cans, lawn furniture and other items that could be blown by high winds.
THE STATE ISSUED these tips to residents on dealing with adverse weather:
* Learn the safest route from home or place of business to a safe shelter from high winds or flooding;
* Consider purchasing a NOAA Weather radio for National Weather Service reports and warnings;
* Prepack a hurricane supply kit with a minimum of three days’ supply of water, nonperishable food, first-aid kit, battery-operated radio with extra batteries, flashlight, and other essential items;
* Trim back dead or weak branches, and secure all outdoor furniture and other items that could become airborne;
* Make an itemized list of all personal property for insurance verification purposes;
* Do not drive into flood-covered roadways;
* If told to evacuate, move out of the building to higher ground;
* Watch for downed electrical wires.
ACCORDING TO Julie Wright, executive director, Alexandria Chapter, American Red Cross, "All of our volunteer staff and employees are on standby. We are in regular communication with both the state and city departments of emergency management. Residents should be prepared to ‘shelter in place.’"
What this means is to adopt the following safeguards:
* Have one gallon of water per person per day of possible confinement;
* Have a sufficient supply of nonperishable food on hand;
* Have the necessary batteries on hand to operate emergency lights and communications equipment;
* Do not use candles in the event of loss of electrical power, due to the potential fire hazard;
* Try to be ready for whatever comes or to evacuate.
According to officials at Fort Belvoir, they have issued the following:
* Weather updates pertinent to the installation will be issued throughout the week. They will be sent out via e-mail on Belvoir's Web site www.belvoir.army.mil; recorded on the Belvoir information hot-line number, 703-805-3030; and posted on Channel 3, the cable access channel;
* For updated information re Isabel and its predicted track, log onto weathers.belvoir.army.mil/ and click on the Tropical Storm information listing.
BLOOD DONORS are being urged to report to donor stations in order to increase the supplies throughout the area in preparation for possible increased needs.
"Right now there is less than one day's supply of blood on hand," according to Kristin Gross, Inova Blood Donor Services. "There is an especially urgent need for Type O donors, the universal donors, whose blood can be used by all potential patients." This is the blood type carried on all EMS vehicles.
For appointments to donate, call 1-866-256-6372 or visit their Web site at www.inova.org/donateblood.