Mayors on the Peninsula and the Southside are watching the track of Tropical Storm Arthur closely as it cruises up the Atlantic coast from Florida. National Weather Service forecasters predict it will pass the region on Friday, but the greatest rains and wind are expected Thursday night into Friday and could put a damper on scheduled holiday activities.
Gathered for the first meeting of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission in Chesapeake, several mayors said they hope the storm follows a projected track that keeps it well east of Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay.
"We're being vigilant," said Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, adding that his city has not moved to cancel any holiday activities.
Hampton Mayor George Wallace said his city is on alert and likely would open its emergency operations center in advance of the storm.
Suffolk Mayor Linda Johnson said her staff is keeping an eye on the storm, but has no plans to cancel activities.
"I want July 4 to happen," she said.
Fraim said he had talked with state emergency management officials as well as his city's team. "I think we are well prepared to weather the storm."
The first hurricane of the season comes as the Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia Department of Emergency Management are conducting a review of the region's evacuation plans ordered by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. After participating in a tabletop emergency exercise in May, the governor expressed doubts about the region's ability to evacuate up to 900,000 people if a major storm or other disaster hit Hampton Roads.
At a recent Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization meeting, VDOT Hampton Roads Director Jim Utterback said he expects some changes to the plan at the conclusion of the review. He also said VDOT and VDEM have been working with cities and counties in the region to refine procedures.
Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright said he is not worried about Arthur's effect on the region, adding that VDEM has been in contact ahead of the storm. "We've got a very good emergency management team that works well with all our localities," he said.
Grimes can be reached by phone at 757-247-4758.