Forecast for Irma effect on region still hazy

Weather experts said Friday it’s too soon to tell if Hurricane Irma will affect the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

But meteorologists also didn’t rule out that the storm could hit the region. Forecaster and meteorologist Andy Woodcock, with the National Weather Service at its office in Sterling, provided an update on the storm’s track Friday afternoon.

“At the moment the official track in the models are showing it going west of our area going into possibly Tennessee,” Woodcock said.

But the veteran meteorologist warned that this could change given the size of the hurricane.

“The storm is massive is a good way to put it,” Woodcock said. “I’ve been a meteorologist for 34 years. This is one of the biggest storms, if not the biggest I’ve ever seen and so there’s plenty of possibilities that it could have impact on central Virginia.”

The storm could produce rain bands and periods of heavy precipitation, Woodcock said, adding that spin in the atmosphere caused by the storm also could increase the chance of tornadoes.

“These are all ‘coulds,’ not ‘definites,'” Woodcock said. “We’re gonna have to see what happens as far as the track goes over the next couple of days. There definitely are possible threats that we’ll have to be concerned with.”

“We’re very in touch with what the models are doing, what the hurricane center guidance is doing and we’ll be adjusting our forecast as the days move ahead,” Woodcock said.

Gov. Terry McAuliffee declared a state of emergency Thursday in anticipation of the potential impact from the hurricane. The order helps mitigate storm damage and streamlines the process that Virginia uses to give assistance to other states vulnerable to the hurricane.

McAuliffe indicated in a statement about the declaration that the recent destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey should prompt the state to bolster its preparation efforts for the next storm. The governor noted that the hurricane still appears likely to make an impact on Virginia and so the state must prepare for possible flooding, high winds and a storm surge.

The Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services and the Office of Emergency Management met Friday afternoon with representatives from town and county governments, local law enforcement, public works, social services and other agencies to discuss the potential impacts Hurricane Irma might have on the area.

A state of emergency allows the state to mobilize its resources such as the Virginia National Guard and to put people and equipment in place to help in the storm response and recovery efforts. The governor’s office, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Virginia National Guard, state police and other agencies have already begun preparations for the storm.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management encourages Virginia residents to prepare for possible impacts from the hurricane that could include high winds and flooding in rivers and streams in the western part of the state.