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Hurricane Joaquin

Thursday, October 1, 2015
Last Update: 10/01/15

Hurricane Joaquin

Last Update 10/1/15


The District of Columbia Government is carefully monitoring the weather and the potential impacts to our area of Hurricane Joaquin.


Current Storm Information

·         A strong upper-level trough of low pressure is expected to approach the DC area beginning late Thursday night. This will bring widespread rain between late Thursday night and Saturday morning. Precipitation totals are likely to vary considerably around the DC region, much as they did on Monday night. Parts of the area might receive less than 2 inches of rain, while other parts may receive over 5 inches of rain.

·         From late Saturday to early Sunday, there could be a brief break in the precipitation.

·         Beginning around midday Sunday, the DC area may be impacted by wind, rain, and flooding from Hurricane Joaquin. The storm has intensified rapidly since 5 PM, when its peak wind speeds were 85 mph. Joaquin is now a category 3 major hurricane, with peak winds of over 115 mph.

·         Joaquin is currently located about 170 miles west of the Bahamas, and is currently drifting at only 5 mph towards the SW. However, in about 24-36 hours, Joaquin is forecast to be caught up in strong northerly steering currents. Right now, the official National Hurricane Center track line has Joaquin heading in the direction of the Chesapeake Bay and the District. However, there remains a considerable possibility that the storm will turn further to the NE and bury itself in North Carolina. There is also still some chance that Joaquin could remain off the coast.


District Government and Utility Response

District agencies are meeting daily to discuss the latest weather reports, potential impacts to the District, and next steps. In addition to these coordination meetings, individual District agencies are hard at work on the following:

·         The District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) is in regular communication with the NWS, monitoring all forecasts, and writing/updating impact reports for senior government officials. In addition to this monitoring and coordination, HSEMA continues to send internal government, public and regional alerts as needed. As necessary, these alerts will include instructions and precautions for citizens and commuters. Due to the anticipated heavy rains, HSEMA will host Emergency Liaison Officers from DC Water, PEPCO, DPW, DHS, DDOT, WMATA, DPR, Libraries, and DOH over the weekend to augment the Joint All-Hazards Operations Center. If Hurricane Joaquin is expected to have a significant impact on the District, HSEMA will likely have a full Emergency Operations Center activation.

·         The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is conducting initial preparations for severe weather event while awaiting an updated forecast.

·         The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Traffic Management Center is monitoring road conditions and preparing message boards.  DDOT is also contacting contractors for construction site hazard mitigation.

·         The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) has begun to strategically place generators at pumping stations and is putting contingency plans in place for areas of concern (ie. Bloomingdale and 1st and V NW). Similarly, DC Water is planning for the potential need for sandbag operations

·         The District of Columbia Department of Human Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation have begun initial planning for strategic shelter locations and support in the event of severe weather.

·         Pepco is preparing emergency response teams in case of widespread power outages.

·         Currently, all schools are scheduled to open on time, but the District of Columbia Public Schools are monitoring the forecast in case a change is necessary.

·         Metrorail and Metrobus remain on normal schedule.


General Safety and Preparedness Tips:

·         Residents in potentially affected areas, including the District, should continue to monitor local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information.

·         In any emergency, always follow the instructions given by state, local, and emergency management officials. Updates from the District Government will go out on AlertDC, the official District of Columbia communications system that sends emergency alerts, notifications, and updates to your devices.  Sign up for AlertDC at www.alertdc.dc.gov

·         Plan for your loved ones’ needs in advance. Ask schools, hospitals, nursing homes and day care facilities about their emergency plans and how they will keep your loved ones safe. 

·         Talk with personal care assistance providers, oxygen or dialysis providers, child or adult care providers, transportation providers, schools and workplaces about their plan for emergencies. 

·         Residents and visitors in potentially affected areas should be familiar with evacuation routes, have a family emergency communications plan, keep a battery-powered radio handy and have plans for their family members and pets. People with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, older adults and their families may need to take additional steps for themselves and their service animals. District evacuation routes can be found online at http://geospatial.dcgis.dc.gov/evac/

·         If you or someone you know needs assistance to receive and respond to emergency alerts and to safely evacuate in an emergency, work with family members, neighbors, friends, service providers and coworkers as partners in planning strategies that will work for your specific needs, whether you are at home or away from home. 


Severe Weather Business Preparedness:

·         Businesses of all sizes should prepare for all hazards, including severe weather to prevent loss of life, property, or disruption to operations.

·         Review and update your business continuity plan and ensure your workforce knows what to do in the event of severe weather.

·          Resources are available on web sites such as ready.gov/business, and the Small Business Administration, sba.gov/content/disaster-planning, including exercises and preparedness tips.

·         Encourage your employees to update their family emergency plan to stay connected during severe weather while at work and develop alternate methods of communication.  Also, download the commuter emergency plan to identify evacuation routes while at work, school, or home.


Hurricane Preparedness Steps:

·         Listen to the radio or television for information and understand the terminology:

o   A Hurricane Watch means that a hurricane is possible within 36 hours.

o   A Hurricane Warning means that a hurricane is expected within 24 hours or less.

·         Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

·         Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor. Board up windows with plywood and fill up your car with fuel. Avoid using elevators.

·         Stay away from windows and doors, even if they are covered. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the bottom floor.

·         Bring pets inside. If instructed to evacuate, take them with you.

·         Evacuate if told to do so. Leave early so you are not trapped. Stay inside if you do not evacuate.

·         Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.


Flooding Preparedness Steps:

·         Understand the terminology:

o   A Flood Watch means “Be aware” because conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area.

o   A Flood Warning means “Take action!” because flooding is either happening or will happen shortly.

·         Do not drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade. Repeat the advice above: Turn Around, Don't Drown. A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in a matter of seconds.

·         Twelve inches of water can float a car or small SUV, and 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles.

·         Ensure water is safe to drink, cook or clean with after a flood. Oftentimes a boil water order is put in place following a flood.

·         Water service may be interrupted. Store drinking water in various containers and clean bathtubs.

·         Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.

·         Play it safe. Additional flooding or flash floods can occur. Listen for local warnings and information. If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out immediately and climb to higher ground.


Online resources:

·         Resources from HSEMA

o   Review the Hurricane Season Preparedness Guide

o   Learn What to Do in a Hurricane

o   Learn What to Do in a Flood

o   Make an Emergency Go Kit

·         FEMA Resources

o   Ready Business: www.ready.gov/business

o   Commuter emergency plan: https://www.fema.gov/

o   Family emergency plan: http://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/FamEmePlan_2012.pdf

o   Small Business Administration disaster planning: https://www.sba.gov/content/disaster-planning

o   Disaster Reporter App: https://www.fema.gov/disaster-reporter