Worst of Hurricane Sandy to Hit Monday Afternoon in Northern Virginia
Sunday afternoon update: Most schools closed. Several inches of heavy rain, sustained winds up to 45 miles per hour, wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour.
Update: Monday 8:34 a.m. - For Monday's storm weather update, power outage information and more, see 'Hurricane Sandy Predictions Worsen'
Update: Sunday 9:03 p.m. - The National Weather Service has updated its wind and rain projections for the DC metro area, predicting the effects of Hurricane Sandy will be stronger than earlier thought.
The new estimate for peak wind gusts is now 70 mph, up from 60 mph. Projected rainfall is now 5 - 10 inches — an increase from 4 - 8 inches predicted earlier Sunday.
President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for the District of Columbia. Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency for Virginia Friday afternoon.
The Capital Weather Gang advises: "Some time after 2 or 3 p.m., once sustained winds reach 30-40 mph, and it’s gusting over 50 mph, I would not advise going out. During Hurricane Irene, a number of lives were lost when people were crushed by falling trees - some in cars. You’re best bet will be to stay inside from mid-afternoon Monday through Monday night, and only travel if absolutely critical."
Patch will have a full update from Dominion Virginia Power and other utilities in the morning. See full coverage of Hurricane Sandy's impact on Northern Virginia in our hurricane special section — go to the news menu above and click on Hurricane Sandy.
Update, Sunday 6:03 p.m. - Metrorail, along with Virginia Railway Express Service, have canceled service for Monday. Metrobus and many local bus services for Monday are also not operating.
VRE spokesman Mark Roeber said the decision was made after a conference call with U.S. Department of Personnel Management and National Weather Service officials. No decision has been made about Tuesday VRE operations, Roeber said. There is another conference call at 5 p.m. Monday. A decision will likely be made after that, he added.
Northern Virginia school systems are also closed, including Arlington, Alexandria City, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Fairfax City, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County.
Update, Sunday 5:55 p.m. - From the Federal Office of Personnel Management:
"Non-emergency employees (including employees on pre-approved paid leave) will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are: required to telework, on official travel outside of the Washington, DC, area, on leave without pay, or on an alternative work schedule (AWS) day off." More information is available at OPM.gov.
Update, Sunday 3:30 p.m. - Amtrak has canceled all service on the Eastern Seaboard for Monday.
Many flights are already being canceled for Monday.
According to FlightAware.com, 156 flights to and from Dulles had been canceled as of 3:15 p.m. Sunday; 95 flights to and from Washington Reagan National were canceled, as were 45 flights to and from BWI. More cancellations were expected Monday and Tuesday.
Fairfax County Public Schools will also be closed Monday and Tuesday. Arlington, Alexandria City, Falls Church City and Loudoun County schools are also closed Monday.
UPDATE Noon - Hurricane Sandy is now east of North Carolina and still has sustained winds of 75 mph. Heavy rain is falling over the Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis, Md. Rain is also falling west and northwest of Frederick, Md. Showers and light rain may start in our area just after noon.
Police and volunteers in the Huntington neighborhood passed out flyers and spoke with residents. They are being urged to move their cars to higher ground and empty their basements.
Alexandria City was providing sandbags to residents this morning.
UPDATE 10 a.m. -- The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning, which is in effect from 8 a.m. Monday to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Wind gusts of more than 45 mph are expected Monday morning and wind gusts up to 60 mph are expected Monday afternoon into Tuesday.
Coupled with heavy rain, the high winds will lead to significant tree damage and power and communication outages, the National Weather Service advises.
For those who live near large trees, the National Weather Service recommends staying in the lower level of your home or seeking shelter elsewhere if possible; residents should also refrain from traveling and stay indoors.
5:30 a.m. -- Thousands of Northern Virginians spent Saturday stocking up on staples, gassing up their cars and generally preparing for Hurricane Sandy, the mega hybrid storm dubbed "Frankenstorm" expected to affect the D.C. area beginning Sunday night, according to forecasters.
Residents can expect the worst of the storm to hit the area with high winds and heavy rain from about noon on Monday to noon on Tuesday, NBC-4 chief meteorologist Doug Kammerer reported on the Saturday 11 p.m. newscast.
The hurricane, with winds of 75 miles per hour Sunday morning, was moving northeast at 14 miles per hour along the South Carolina coastline; the center of the storm is expected to hook over to the Mid-Atlantic shoreline between Delaware and New Jersey. (Once the hurricane makes landfall late Monday night or early Tuesday its official name will likely be Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy according to the National Hurricane Center.) Tropical storm-force winds extend more than 500 miles from the center of this relatively disorganized hurricane.
Although there is no forecast for snow in the Northern Virginia area, VDOT is sending snowplows to roadways near West Virginia, said VDOT’s Charlie Kilpatrick.
Dominion Virginia Power says to expect prolonged outages. Gov. Bob McDonnell urged families to grab extra blankets to stay warm during possible outages, with temperatures dipping into the 40s this week.
In addition to potential flooding and power outages, a major concern for all state agencies involved in emergency operations is trees coming down, Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a conference call Saturday. Many trees still have most of their leaves, and strong wind and saturated soil mean a strong likelihood of trees uprooting.
High Wind, Coast Flood Watches in Northern Virginia and D.C.
The National Weather Service late Saturday issued a High Wind Watch for Northern Virginia from Sunday night through Tuesday at midnight. The weather service expects the area to see sustained winds of between 35 to 45 miles per hour, and wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour.
Northern Virginia is also under a Flood Watch, with expected rain of at least 3 to 6 inches in the area.
The area is also under a Coastal Flood Watch for areas near the Potomac River.
The Fairfax County Police Department will send its officers and volunteers door to door Sunday morning in flood-prone Huntington just south of Old Town Alexandria to hand out emergency-preparedness flyers.
Transit and Schools Prepare
Metro: Metro is making preparations for the storm and has not announced any changes in service. Trains will move slower if there are sustained winds of 30 to 45 miles per hour for its above-ground trains, so plan for delays.
Amtrak has canceled some of its train service Sunday and Monday to and from the Washington, D.C. area. To see a list of cancellations, visit their Service Alerts and Notices site.
Virginia Railway Express: For service information in advance and during the storm heading our way, stay tuned to Train Talk or 1.800.RIDE.VRE. This is the link https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/VAVRE/subscriber/new
Airports: Patch received unconfirmed reports of airlines cancelling service Monday and Tuesday in and out of area airports. Contact your airline for information. Both Dulles and Reagan National plan to remain open "but we stress that passengers check flights status before leaving for the airport," said spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs, MWAA Public Affairs.
Schools, federal government offices: Local school officials are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Sandy, but there is no word yet on any closures for public schools in Northern Virginia or the District, including those that are part of the Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools.
The Federal Office of Personnel Management also has not made an official announcement regarding Monday or Tuesday. You can keep an eye on any announcements regarding federal government office closures here: http://www.opm.gov/status/
Answering Your Questions
Fairfax County and regional emergency management officials will be online Sunday at 6 p.m. at the county's Emergency Operations Center to answer residents’ questions about the storm. You can submit your questions now here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/askfairfax/SubmitQuestions.aspx?roomid=47
For complete coverage of Hurricane Sandy, click on the blue news tab above and click on our Hurricane Sandy special section.