CHARLESTON – Although Hurricane Florence was relegated to a tropical storm on Friday night, preparations in West Virginia are continuing to reduce the potential impact of the storm on the mountain state as it shifts inland the coast of Carolina.
Government Jim Justice was informed Friday by officials at the West Virginia National Guard Joint Operations Center about the state's efforts to prepare for the rain that is still on its way along with other related weather conditions.
As of Friday, the National Weather Service in Charleston predicted 2 to 4 inches of rain in the greater part of West Virginia, with potential for heavier rains in the southern and eastern part of the state, depending on the path of the storm. The rain is expected to begin already on Saturday evening in the south of West Virginia. The consequences of heavy rainfall, tornado & gusts and wind gusts are expected to spread to the south from Sunday to Sunday.
The storm itself will head north on Saturday and take its way through eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, eventually in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Because of recent heavy rainfall, the soil moisture is already high and can contribute to flooding. Flooding problems include floods and flooding of rivers.
The state also has an increased risk of tornadoes thanks to Florence's remnant at low level. There is a limited risk of gusting wind, although wind gusts up to 40 km / h are possible. The National Weather Service said the wind will be higher in the mountains.
More than 10 state organizations work together to prepare for the storm, from the national guard to the Red Cross. West Virginia is currently in a state of readiness, enabling the governor to mobilize the necessary resources prior to a forecasted situation of severe weather or other large-scale threats.
"All your government agencies have been working hard since last week when Hurricane Gordon reached the western side of the state to be prepared for everything that happened," said Jimmy Gianato, director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, during the Friday's briefing. "We are working with FEMA on the national response and hopefully this will miss us and we will be able to offer some support to the other states, but as we continue to prepare, we wanted to get up early enough that we had the opportunity to find problems that we had and be prepared for all possible scenarios when we go to this event. "
Preparations include preparing potential shelters and providing them, starting communication lines with county emergency management systems and preparing the monitoring of possible land and aircraft impacts.
It is the first company of the task force to use the Joint Operations Center, said Major General James Hoyer. He said that they are in the process of acquiring a $ 5 million grant from FEMA to expand the center and they also hope to move the National Weather Service to the building.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, urged a press release that all West Virginians remain vigilant as the storm progresses to the state. He also called on the Governor and the Department of Transportation Secretary, Tom Smith, to lift the toll on the toll road to allow safe and free traffic flow while people escape the storm.
"This is certainly an extreme circumstance and we have seen countless reports of traffic back ups of several kilometers, which can create dangerous situations for first responders who may have to move quickly," Carmichael said. "I hope that Gov. Justice will consider lifting the toll when the situation requires it, until this storm passes through our state to ensure that no one gets into an unfortunate situation because of a traffic jam."
Several hotels in West Virginia, including all state parks, offer discounts to hurricane evacuees. As of Thursday, the discount code for the state parks had been used more than 60 times.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.