Richmond mayor declares state of emergency as Florence approaches

Richmond under state of emergency

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney declared a state of emergency for the city as Hurricane Florence continues to strengthen in the Atlantic Ocean.

He said residents need to "prepare for the worst" as the storm could dump more than 10 inches of rain in the area.

"This could be life-threatening for The City of Richmond and beyond," Stoney said.

PRESS CONFERENCE:

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also declared a state of emergency and ordered an evacuation of low-lying coastal areas.

"I am declaring a state of emergency so that we can begin to prepare state assets, and I encourage Virginians to monitor forecasts and make their own preparations now," Northam said.

Stoney's declaration will help mobilize city resources help the city financially depending on how much is spent because of the storm.

"In addition to the preparations, also we find if the expenditures reach a certain level, we do receive certain kind of reimbursements from the federal government," said Selena Yvette Cuffee-Glenn, the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Richmond.

The city is preparing for the storm in various ways including working to ensure drains are cleaned out around the city and clearing any potential blockages to prevent neighborhood flooding.

Robert Steidel is the Director for Public Utilities.

"The drainage system we have, have all been inspected," Steidel said. "We've done everything we can to get them ready for what we know is a storm...remember storms like Gaston are off the scale of prediction."

Steidel says all flood wall gates, both above and underground, were last tested in June and are ready if need be.

"The inspection we had two weeks ago reviewed all procedures and operating preparations for anytime we have to use the flood wall," Steidel said.

City Officials won't use the flood wall until the river rises to the nine to ten foot level at the Westham gauge. The Flood wall is designed to protect Richmond from floods of up to 32 feet.

As the city continues to prepare for the impending storm, they urge the community to prepare for worst-case scenarios: make sure to stock up on water and non-perishable goods, create a plan for how to communicate with family if the power goes out, use texting and social media instead of phone calls and review evacuation and shelter routes if need be.

The City will operate an emergency operations center on Thursday. They will also operate a 'partial operation' center on Wednesday.

Depending on the severity of the storm, the city may also open shelters for people who need somewhere to go. One of those shelters would allow people to bring their pets. The shelter locations have not been announced yet.

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