As Hurricane Sandy batters the East Coast, power outages in Northern Virginia have been tame. But Gov. Bob McDonnell urged Virginians Monday to prepare for widespread power outages over the next 24 hours.
“For most of the state, the worst part of the storm is still ahead,” McDonnell said during a press briefing in Richmond on Monday. “Prepare now for power outages.”
About 57,000 Virginians have been affected so far by the storm, but response has been rapid and only 6,000 residents were without power as of 1:15 p.m.
“We’d be shocked if those numbers don’t go up dramatically, especially in Northern Virginia, as the storm approaches,” McDonnell said.
"We've been holding our own, but we expect the weather to become a challenge," said Rodney Blevins, vice president of Dominion Distribution Operations.
Dominion has 5,500 crew members responding to outages in Virginia, including 2,600 from other companies, Blevins said. To report a Dominion outage call 1-866-366-4357.
The governor also said approximately 615 members of the National Guard have been deployed to the Hampton Roads area, which has seen major flooding.
Many of those guardsmen will be sent to Northern Virginia to help with the recovery efforts after the worst effects come through late Monday night, McDonnell said. The governor added he has informed Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova of this.
“We’re concerned about Northern Virginia, where the wind gusts could be anywhere from 70 miles per hour or more at the peak of the storm,” McDonnell said. “It’s still a very dangerous weather situation throughout the entire state.”
Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said no fatalities have been reported in the commonwealth yet.
Restrictions have been taken off of the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on major roadways, McDonnell said, and approximately 30 secondary roads have been closed statewide, though many are in other parts of the state.
Officials encouraged Virginians to dial 511 for transportation information and concerns.
But McDonnell ultimately urged Virginians to stay off the roads if possible.
“Don’t go out,” he said, asking residents to use common sense and not get behind the wheel.
McDonnell also asked residents to contribute to the Virginia Disaster Relief Fund.
"Virginians are going to need help," he said in a statement. "That’s why I’m asking individual Virginians, and local businesses, to pitch in to voluntarily help one another in the days and weeks ahead ... We will get through this storm and recover from it. And we will do that by working together."