By Katie Demeria
Though the valley may see a brief reprieve in severe weather this afternoon, strong thunderstorms, potential flash floods and even possible tornadoes are all in the forecast for later in the day.
Kyle Struckmann, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said strong storms will likely stick around until midnight tonight, with light rain taking over into Thursday morning.
A flash flood watch has been issued for Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties, to remain in effect through late this evening.
An inch of rain was reported at 7 a.m. in Front Royal, according to Struckmann, and between 2 and 3 inches are expected by Thursday morning.
"We're probably going to get a break over the Shenandoah Valley this afternoon, but we're expecting more thunderstorms to move up this way from the southwest," Struckmann said.
The worst of the storm is likely to hit this afternoon and evening, he added.
Warren County Fire and Rescue Services Fire Marshal Gerry Miatico said his crews are most concerned with the potential for flash floods.
"When we see a long progression of rain over the last few days like we've just seen, we get concerned with the creeks and streams that really aren't at flood stage yet, but are full," Miatico said.
It would only take one significant downpour, he continued, to cause those streams, creeks, and low-lying areas to quickly flood.
As of 3 p.m. today, several roads in the area were closed due to flooding, including Lupton Road, Artz Road, and a portion of Old Valley Pike in Shenandoah County.
Struckmann said the National Weather Service issues flash flood watches when they estimate that the ground is too saturated to handle the amount of rain their radars estimate will hit the area.
Maiatico said they urge individuals who come across flooded areas of road to "turn around, don't drown."
"Regardless of how much signage is up, we always have someone attempt to cross those areas," he said. "As little as 3 to 6 inches could sweep a car away."
As the storms grow in severity in the late afternoon and evening, Struckman said the risk for potential tornadoes will grow.
"The winds aloft are pretty strong, so there's always the chance you could get damaging wind gusts or the chance for funneling," he said.
Winds could reach 60 mph or higher, he added.
Maiatico urged residents to find a safe place in their homes, either underground or central to the building, and to stay away from windows and doors if tornadoes should become likely.
He also said it is a good idea to always have either a radio or television in the home so residents do not miss safety alerts.
Ann Lewis of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative said that as of noon today REC has not had to deal with any mass power outages, but crews are staged to respond in case they do.
Maiatico said preparing for power outages is one of the most important parts of the preparation stage.
He suggested filling plastic bags with water while power is still available, then putting them in the freezer in order to keep perishable food fresh for as long as possible if the refrigerator loses power.
He also urged residents with medications to refill prescriptions as early as possible in case leaving the house becomes difficult later on.
"We always encourage everyone in the community to have an emergency preparedness plan, and an emergency kit in cases of bad weather or other emergencies," Maiatico said.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com