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D.C. declares state of emergency for Hurricane Florence

What you need to know for the impending storm

Hurricane Florence as seen from space
NASA/Getty Images

The District has implemented a state of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Florence, which is currently a Category 4 storm and expected to strike the East Coast on Thursday.

Meteorologists predict that the storm could slow as it moves up the east coast from the Carolinas, where it is likely to make landfall, to the Mid-Atlantic region. It could result in significant flooding that the National Weather Service has called “potentially extreme and life-threatening.” D.C. joins Virginia and Maryland in having declared a state of emergency.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the declaration on Tuesday. While we are monitoring potential impacts of Hurricane Florence on the District, we remain committed to keeping our residents safe, prepared, and informed,” she said in a statement, adding that residents and visitors should “take this storm seriously.” (You can follow official updates via Alert DC.)

The state of emergency will remain in effect for 15 days, according to Bowser’s office. Under it, the District can apply for financial help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other disaster relief organizations. D.C. officials spoke with FEMA on Monday.

Predicted path of Hurricane Florence as of 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11
National Hurricane Center

The last time the District declared a state of emergency was in January 2016, in advance of the “Snowzilla” winter storm. The state of emergency activates D.C.’s official response plan for disaster management, permits emergency repair work beyond normal work hours, and prohibits price-gouging. Officials are encouraging residents to pick up food and medicine, and to contact DC Water at (202) 612-3400 if they see clogged or obstructed sewer basins.

“We know that there will be flooding, heavy rain, and wind, and likely power outages,” said Bowser at a press conference on Tuesday. She pointed out that the Fiesta DC event and the H Street NE Festival, which were originally scheduled for this weekend, will be rescheduled.

Chris Rodriguez, the head of the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said his team has been monitoring the storm since last week, but cautioned that it is still too early to say how severe the storm’s impact on D.C. will be. Asked about reports of the National Park Service planning to potentially deploy a flood levee near the National Mall and the Tidal Basin on 17th Street NW, he said federal park officials are tracking water levels.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said the regional transit authority is also monitoring the storm and recommended that MetroAccess customers cancel travel plans on Thursday and Friday “if at all possible” as the storm occurs. Service updates will come later this week.

On Monday afternoon, D.C.’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs told building owners and managers to “safeguard their premises, particularly active construction sites, to prevent water and/or structural damage from flooding and wind gusts” in a safety advisory.

The storm arrives on the heels of an especially wet summer for the District. Last weekend’s washout closed Hains Point in East Potomac Park and last month, D.C. reached the average amount of rainfall that it typically sees in a year, making 2018 one of the wettest on record.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Florence weakened slightly overnight, but it is “expected to restrengthen later today.” As of 11 a.m. on Tuesday, its maximum wind speeds were 130 mph and it was moving west-northwest at roughly 16 mph from Bermuda’s south.