Northam declares state of emergency as Hurricane Dorian approaches U.S.

By Keya Vakil

September 3, 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Monday as coastal Virginia braces for Hurricane Dorian, which is expected to dump several inches of rain and cause flooding in the region on Thursday and Friday. 

The formerly category-5 storm devastated the Bahamas with its 185-mile-per-hour winds and 23-foot storm surge over the weekend and is moving closer to the Florida and Georgia coastlines. 

While the official forecast does not currently show the now category-2 hurricane making landfall in the U.S., it would take only a slight deviation in its path for that to occur, and Virginia officials are urging residents to review evacuation plans, stock up on supplies and remain alert.

“Hurricane Dorian is a serious storm, and current predictions indicate that it may affect parts of Virginia,” said Governor Northam in his statement. “I encourage Virginians to take all necessary precautions to make sure they are prepared as well.” 

The Hampton Roads region could see five inches of rain, coastal flooding, beach erosion, and gusts of up to 50mph, according to Mike Rusnak, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in Wakefield. Rusnak told the Virginian-Pilot that he expects a “good deal of power outages” in coastal Virginia.

Northam’s state of emergency declaration allows the state to “mobilize resources and to deploy people and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts” and will also allow Virginia officials to coordinate with officials from North Carolina, which faces a more severe threat from Dorian.

In advance of the storm’s arrival in the region, Chesapeake began suspending tolling on Route 168 Chesapeake Expressway going northbound at noon on Tuesday. 

Norfolk and Virginia Beach are both doing “routine pre-storm work,” such as checking lake levels and sewer stations and clearing ditches, the Virginian-Pilot reports. Newport News is also preparing for the storm and advising residents to watch forecasts and review supplies and be prepared to evacuate, if needed.

If you live in Coastal Virginia, you can learn about your evacuation zone at, or by calling 2-1-1. Northam said that residents outside of a pre-identified evacuation zone should listen to evacuation orders from local and state emergency agencies to decide if and when to evacuate. 

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management also urged residents of Coastal Virginia to be ready to evacuate, if necessary.

More information on hurricane preparedness can be found at 

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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