Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Tri-Cities Avoid Sandy's Worst
By Caitlin Davis
Oct 31, 2012, 13:59

photo by Caitlin Davis This dock at the Jordan Point Marina was mostly under water during the worst of Sandy.

When news of Hurricane Sandy came last week, area residents from all over the region began preparing for what was supposed to be a nightmare storm. Nicknamed “Frankenstorm” because it would combine with another storm system, Hurricane Sandy was supposed to devastate the region.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency on Friday noting that the storm would cause widespread damage and millions could be without power for days.

“I encourage all Virginians to gather batteries, blankets, water, canned goods, and other necessities prior to the anticipated onset of storm conditions late Saturday and early Sunday.” he stated.

Local law enforcement and fire departments, such as the Prince George Fire and EMS, told residents to have enough food, water, batteries and other supplies to last up to 72 hours and many followed McDonnell in declaring local states of emergency.

Local school systems, governments and businesses in the surrounding areas closed as a precaution. McDonnell issued another statement on Monday afternoon urging Virginia residents to stay indoors. He said everyone needed to be prepared for the possibility of widespread power outages.

Weather reports on Monday predicted the strongest point of the storm would be Monday night into Tuesday morning; winds would increase to gusts of 50 mph and rain would become heavier. When Tuesday morning came, local residents surveyed the damage. It appeared the local area was mostly spared by Sandy although the storm devastated other areas of the East coast.

Sheldon Boyd, who lives near the Benjamin Harrison Memorial Bridge saw flooding on his property along the river, but was relieved as the storm left his yard and house mostly unscathed. He said he went out during every high tide to see where the water was in his yard and to survey the damage, which was minimal.

“I feel very, very lucky this moved northward,” Boyd said.

Boyd said before Sandy hit, he moved all his vehicles to the top of the hill on his property and removed a smaller boat from the dock and put it on trailer. He also tied down all of his outdoor furniture. Having lived on the bank of the James River for five years, he’s been through several bad storms and knows how to prepare.

“Prior to owning the home, the owner had two feet of water in the house during [Hurricane] Isabel,” Boyd said. “After I bought it, I raised the house to get it above the 100 year floodplain.”

Boyd said this was the first storm he has had this year that required home preparations. He said the storm was big surprise, especially at the end of October. Boyd is pleased that the storm left little destruction in its wake, just a a bit of washed up trash to pick up.

“I have a couple of days of work to do,” Boyd said.

Owners of other waterfront properties were also prepared for the worst.

“We expected a pretty severe weather event,” said Mark Winn, owner of Jordan Point Yacht Haven in Hopewell, “After essentially what was a three day forecast saying ‘It’s coming, it’s coming.’”

Winn, who has been at the marina for 27 years, said as soon as news of Sandy hit, he began preparing for the worst, calling all the boat owners and telling them of the storm. Winn said he recommended that boat owners who were going to keep their boats in the water double tie them or take them out of the water and place them on a trailer.

“We take the threat of severe weather pretty seriously,” Winn said.

The damage from the hurricane was minimal, especially in contrast to what could have been. The only cleanup Winn had to do on the property was pick up driftwood and trash that was washed ashore from the high water.

“After watching the forecast and watching where it was going, I knew we’d have a lot of water,” Winn said. The water engulfed his four foot high dock in the back during a much higher than normal high tide.

Krista Cato Manieri, owner of Appomattox Boat Harbor also spent days preparing for the worst. Manieri said she made sure all boats were tied securely and that everything was away from the edges of the water and even turned on the ice machine a day in advance in case power was lost. The Coast Guard reached out to Manieri during their preparations, asking if they could bring one of their boats into the harbor in case the weather got too rough.

“We did a lot of preparations because with wind gusts, you never know,” Manieri said.

The night that Sandy was supposed to make landfall in the area, Manieri said she stayed up on the water to make sure nothing would go wrong at the harbor. She said the water rose higher than she’s seen it, but that was about the worst of the storm.

“I was really happy,” Manieri said. “I was happy last night and this morning. I am very relieved.”

Manieri said she has seen worse from other storms.

Ed Daley, Hopewell City Manager, like many, was pleased the storm did not cause more damage in the city. Daley said he has seen worse and was prepared for severe problems resulting from Sandy.
photo by Caitlin Davis While the sign warns of shallow water at the pier, the water was anything but. The water almost covered the pier during the worst of the storm, which hit on Monday.

“The police department, fire department, public works and recreation and parks had been planning for this since last week,” Daley said. “You look at what’s to come and you make sure you have adequate personnel available.”

Police Chief John Keohane said the department was prepared for the worst, but saw some of the best outcomes.

“We were prepared for the worst,” Keohane said. “We were very lucky. We saw minimal damage and very minimal power outages.”

Daley said the Red Cross was prepared to deliver food and water to the area in case of massive power outages and plans were in place to open shelters if needed.

“It is always better to plan and not have to then the opposite,” Daley said. “I felt that we were very lucky.”

Only one power outage was reported in the city at Weston Manor. Daley said more widespread power outages occurred during Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. He said some in the city went without power for a week. He also noted more damage to the city came with the “derechos” summer storm in June.

“We were expecting a bigger event,” Daley said. “We thought we’d have more problems with it.”

Daley said the only clean up efforts the city is going to focus on will be clearing the wet leaves that are covering the roads in Hopewell, which may have represented a blessing.

“Part of that is good,” Daley said. “The more leaves that fall the less weight that is hanging on the tree.”

While residents in the local area spend the next few days picking up minimal amounts of debris, residents further north will face clean up efforts for months. Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Monday on the coast of New Jersey, displacing thousands and knocking out power to millions. Several boardwalks in New Jersey all but washed away and the streets of New York and New Jersey filled with water.

The New York Stock Exchange closed for two days, a first since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

“We were very fortunate compared to what it could have been,” Daley said. “Compared to what’s up north.”

Keohane also offered his condolences to the people affected by Sandy further North and even in other parts of Virginia that experienced more damage. On the Hopewell Police Department’s Facebook page, he wrote, “We are saddened to hear about the devastation by Hurricane Sandy throughout many parts of Virginia and throughout the northeast,” he wrote on Tuesday morning. “Keep all those communities in your thoughts and prayers.”

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