Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Dorian continues to move toward the East Coast.
The fearsome then-Category 4 storm unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas on Monday, pummeling the islands with so much wind and water that authorities urged people to find flotation devices. By Tuesday morning, the storm's top sustained winds had dipped to 120 mph, making it a Category 3 storm, but it remained almost stationary.
Forecasters expected Dorian to stay off shore from the United States, but NOAA meteorologist Daniel Brown cautioned that "only a small deviation" could draw the storm's dangerous core toward land. The National Hurricane Center extended watches and warnings across the Florida and Georgia coasts.
Northam said Dorian is expected to start affecting southeastern Virginia on Thursday.
“Hurricane Dorian is a serious storm, and current predictions indicate that it may affect parts of Virginia,” Gov. Northam said in a news release Monday.
“I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure that localities and communities have the appropriate level of assistance, and to coordinate the Commonwealth’s response to any potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian. I encourage Virginians to take all necessary precautions to make sure they are prepared as well.”
Potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian include coastal and inland flooding, storm surge, damaging winds and prolonged power outages, the release said.
A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and to deploy people and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts. The declaration also allows officials from Virginia to coordinate planning and evacuation resources with the state of North Carolina.
The action does not apply to individuals or private businesses, according to the news release.
Officials urged residents who live on the coast to learn their evacuation zone by visiting KnowYourZoneVA.org or calling 211.
Virginians in eastern and coastal areas of the state should continue to monitor the latest forecasts, follow official sources on social media and develop or update their emergency preparedness plan, officials say. Planning resources are available at VAemergency.gov/make-a-plan.