VDEM crews prepare for impact of Hurricane Ian

Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 7:32 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As Hurricane Ian gripped southwest Florida Wednesday afternoon, Virginia is preparing for potential impacts from the storm in the coming days.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) is preparing for the worst, which could look like flooding, severe damage and down power lines.

“We’re kind of always on standby for things like this,” Jason Elmore, deputy communications director of VDEM, said. “We’ve had lots and lots of storms over the years that were not Hurricanes when they arrived in Virginia, but they did cause significant damage as well as significant flooding.”

VDEM has been coordinating with emergency response crews in various state localities and power companies like Dominion Energy to assess their needs.

“If they feel like the weather is going to impact, let’s say, in a sheltering way, they may have some people that would need shelter, then we would help them with sheltering resources,” Elmore said.

While crews are on standby in Virginia, VDEM sent 14 members to Florida Wednesday morning to assist at their emergency operation center. They’ll be joined by dozens of Virginians volunteering with the American Red Cross.

“These trucks may be small, but honest to God, they are mighty in the fact of what they do, and how much food one cambro carries enough for 350 people,” Debbie Watson said.

Watson was swift to help in Kentucky after the deadly tornadoes, in California with the wildfires, and now in Florida.

Whether it’s feeding families or assisting in the shelters, she’s grateful to help in any way she can.

“We’re the one little bit of light that they get because, for the first time, people are saying we’re here, you’re not going to be by yourself,” Watson said.

Watson and the crew with VDEM are expected to stay on the front lines of recovery efforts in Florida for the next two weeks. That stay could be extended based on the impact of the storm.

For those staying here in Virginia, Elmore encourages having an emergency kit and plan before Hurricane Ian approaches the Commonwealth.