UPDATE: Due to ongoing response operations and support to Hurricane Florence survivors in the Carolinas, FEMA has postponed this week’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) test until Oct. 3.
On Oct. 3, the Federal Emergency and Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) beginning at 2:18 p.m. ET. The test will assess how ready the distribution channels are in case a national message needs sending and determine whether improvements are needed.
Posted at 10:40 a.m.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 2:18 p.m. FEMA will begin the test of the EAS (on television and radio) and WEA (on cellular phones) to assess national warning capabilities.
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children and other critical situations through alerts on cellphones. The national test will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. Tornado Warning, AMBER Alert). Users cannot opt out of the WEA test.
The first-ever national WEA test will begin with special alert tones and vibration, followed by the following message:
“Presidential Alert: THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
Emergency Alert System (EAS)
The EAS is a national public warning system that provides the president with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency. The test is made available to EAS participants (i.e., radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers) and is scheduled to last approximately one minute.
This is the fourth EAS nationwide test and the first national WEA test. Previous EAS national tests were conducted in September 2011, 2016 and 2017 in collaboration with the FCC, broadcasters and emergency management officials in recognition of FEMA’s National Preparedness Month (September).
If the Sept. 20 national test is postponed because of widespread severe weather or other significant events, the back-up date for the test is Oct. 3.
Fairfax County residents may remember the regional WEA test on April 5, when 20 jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, simultaneously issued a test WEA message to test the system across the National Capitol Region.
Posted at 12:55 p.m.
Hurricane Florence is currently beginning to impact the North Carolina coast as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 mph. The storm will continue to impact the coastline of North Carolina and move south to the South Carolina coastline for the next few days.
The good news for Fairfax County is that the track of the storm currently is far enough south that we are not expecting any significant impacts today through the weekend. We may, however, see some scattered showers and slight wind, but also sunshine on Saturday and Sunday.
The bad news is we are not out of the woods yet.
The path for Hurricane Florence once it makes landfall and moves westward into Georgia and Tennessee is still very much unknown and hard to forecast. The track of the remnants from Hurricane Florence looks to push north and then possibly north east into parts of Virginia and possibly over our area, producing heavy rainfall early next week in the Monday night – Tuesday timeframe.
Again, this is hard to forecast at this point so we will continue to monitor the storm and provide weather updates for significant impacts to our area as we get them through the weekend.
To stay up-tp-date on the forecast and receive severe weather alerts via email and text message, be sure to sign up for Fairfax Alerts. You also may want to sign-up for Fairfax Connector BusTracker email or text alerts at www.fairfaxconnector.com to get notifications on possible detours, service disruptions and operating status changes due to weather conditions. You can also call Fairfax Connector customer service at 703-339-7200, TTY 703-339-1608, for service information.
And if you are out on Virginia’s roadways today through the weekend, check road conditions for your trip before heading out at 511virginia.org (here’s a direct link to road closures list – you can sort the closures by region/county).
Posted 10:55 a.m.
The latest models and forecasts show Hurricane Florence tracking farther south of Fairfax County, potentially decreasing its impact locally.
Rain is still expected and flooding conditions may occur in the coming days, so we’re not out of preparedness mode yet for this storm. Hurricane forecasts and tracks can change, so please remain vigilant and prepared.
Here are the latest 11 a.m. predictions:
For the latest forecast, check out:
Our Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has secured 10,000 sandbags, available at four locations:
- Mount Vernon RECenter, 2017 Belle View Blvd., Alexandria
- Pohick Regional Library, 6450 Sydenstricker Road, Burke
- Reston Regional Library, 11925 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston
- McLean Governmental Center, 1437 Balls Hill Road, McLean
County staff will be on site to help residents fill the bags today until 7 p.m., and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday (or until the bags are gone).
- Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and that water flows away from your home.
- If you live in an area prone to flooding or have had flooding in the past, move valuables from the basement; at least move items off the floor onto higher shelves if possible.
- Residential sewer backups normally enter the home through the closest discharge point at the lowest elevation. These points are likely to include sinks, shower drains, floor drains, and toilets located on the basement levels of homes. If a sanitary sewer backup does occur, residents are encouraged to call the Trouble Response Center (703-323-1221 or 703-239-8444) for additional assistance.
- If roads flood in the coming days, please turn around, don’t drown. Also, do not move barricades to drive through flooded roads. Find an alternate route.
In the coming days, our Police Department will provide updates about any road closures. In addition, the Virginia Department of Transportation advises:
Posted at 11:45 a.m.
Hurricane Florence continues its path toward the Atlantic coast. As with all hurricanes 1,000 miles away, forecasts can change, but as of this morning here’s the latest for Fairfax County:
- 4-8 inches of rain beginning late Thursday into early Friday (though this prediction could increase or decrease); major winds should not be an issue.
- Potential flooding over the weekend, especially as Florence is likely to stall over land and due to all the recent rain we’ve already received.
- Rain and flooding impacts could last into early next week as flood waters from areas north and west of the county will move our way even after Florence passes. This is a potentially long-term flooding event for Fairfax County, so please pay attention to trusted sources for information.
One question we’ve heard quite a bit so far is “does Fairfax County provide sandbags?” Unfortunately, with over a million residents and thousands of businesses, Fairfax County simply cannot provide sandbags. We encourage residents to visit their local hardware store.
Here’s a tip from our public works staff: A simple sandbag can be made from those plastic grocery/store bags you already have at home. Simply fill them with sand or soil and you have a pretty effective sandbag.
- If possible to do so safely, clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts before the storm arrives.
- Trim trees and shrubbery. Rain-saturated ground increases risk for falling trees. Consult a certified arborist if you need help.
- If you have a sump pump, make sure it is working and that the outlet pipe is not blocked. If possible, install a battery-operated backup in case of a power failure.
- Move important indoor items to the highest possible floor.
- Check in on elderly neighbors or those with access and functional needs to see if they need any assistance to prepare for the storm.
- See yesterday’s blog article with more preparedness steps.
With all this rain, storm drains may be affected. To report blocked drains during regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.), call 703-877-2800, TTY 711. For after-hours storm flooding emergencies that are not life threatening, call 703-323-1211, TTY 703-239-8498, and state that you are reporting a storm sewer emergency; this number is staffed 24 hours a day.
Stay Weather Aware and Know the Terms
- A Flood Watch means that a flood is possible in the area.
- A Flood Warning means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon.
- Get the most current forecast from the National Weather Service (NWS).
- Find updates on Hurricane Florence from the National Hurricane Center, as well as the hurricane center’s Facebook and Twitter.
- Sign up for severe weather alerts from Fairfax Alerts; Receive alerts by email and text.
Posted at 1:15 p.m.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Florence may impact our area later in the week. The storm is currently a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Further strengthening is anticipated, and Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday.
On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday.
Preparedness Action To Take Today
We don’t know yet what impact Florence will have on our region, but we are likely to continue to see a lot more rain. Here’s a few things you can do now to prepare.
- Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and that water flows away from your home.
- If you live in an area prone to flooding or have had flooding in the past, take precautions to move valuables from the basement; at least move items off the floor onto higher shelves if possible.
- Check your emergency supply kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications or other medical supplies. Be sure to you have extra batteries and flashlights in case you lose electricity.
- Purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA weather radio. Find an online NOAA radio station or download the NOAA radio app for your smartphone (Apple Store | Google Play).
- Review your family’s emergency plan. Does your family know what to do or where to go in case of an emergency or localized flooding? And be sure you know what to do with pets.
- Fill plastic bottles with clean water for drinking.
- Fill your car’s gas tank in case you need to evacuate your home or seek shelter elsewhere.
- Sign up for severe weather alerts from Fairfax Alerts. You can receive these alerts by email and text.
And finally, local creeks and streams are already rising and many reaching capacity. Do not let children play in or near streams or creeks do to the potentially rapidly rising waters.
Hazardous Weather This Week
The National Weather Service has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for the potential of severe thunderstorms this afternoon and evening that could lead to locally heavy rainfall with the potential of flash flooding. This hazardous weather outlook continues Tuesday through Sunday with minor to perhaps moderate flooding expected along the Potomac River Basin on Tuesday.
A Flood Warning also has been issued for the Potomac River at Little Falls, from overnight tonight until Wednesday afternoon. The forecast predicts a rise above flood stage by overnight tonight and crest near 11.0 feet by early tomorrow evening. The river is expected to fall below flood stage by late Wednesday morning.
Never Drive Through Flooded Roadways
Flooding is one of the leading causes of weather related fatalities in the U.S. On average, flooding claims nearly 90 lives each year. More than half of these deaths occur in motor vehicles when people attempt to drive through flooded roadways. This happens because people underestimate the force and power of water, especially when it is moving.
Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock over and carry off an adult. Twelve inches of water can float a small car. If that water is moving, it can carry that car away. Eighteen to 24 inches of flowing water can carry away most vehicles, including large SUVs.
It is impossible to tell the exact depth of water covering a roadway or the condition of the road below the water. This is especially true at night when your vision is more limited. It is never safe to drive or walk through flood waters.
Any time you come to a flooded road, walkway, or path, follow this simple rule: Turn Around Don’t Drown.