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Shenandoah Valley Preparing for Hurricane Sandy - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Shenandoah Valley Preparing for Hurricane Sandy

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A blizzard warning is in full effect for parts of central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.  Most of the snow should stay above the floor of the Shenandoah Valley, but emergency crews and power companies there are expecting plenty of trouble from heavy rains and lashing winds.

Hurricanes from nearly A to Z have taught Augusta County, Waynesboro and Staunton some lessons about rainfall and water levels.  A high-tech monitoring system allows them to do that in real time, and if needed, issue quick warnings and evacuations.  Similar high-tech tools help power companies keep the lights on.

Dozens of gauges and weather stations silently watch rainfall and water levels in rivers and flood control dams that feed into Waynesboro's South River.  Experience has taught the city to keep an eye on its own rain totals and what falls in the nearby Blue Ridge.

"It's running out of the mountains and it's charging the streams and back creek and such," said Waynesboro Emergency Operations Center Director Gary Critzer.  "It's coming our way eventually."

Critzer says it would probably take six or seven inches of rapid rainfall to force the South River out of its banks.  So crews will focus on creeks and small streams, ponding in roads.

Flash flooding, those kind of things," Critzer said.  "But it looks like at this point, that we're going to be okay in terms of any river issues, looks like wind is going to be the big factor for us."

The same is true for the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC).  Its operations center in Mount Crawford monitors service for 90,000 members over eight counties in the valley.  Cooperatives from other parts of the country are sending crews to SVEC.

"We've got folks on standby in hotel rooms, waiting," said Michael Aulgur with SVEC External Affairs.  "We've got folks in our district offices, waiting.  Hopefully we'll be able to deploy those folks just as quickly as possible wherever the outages are."

The widespread outages from the June derecho are still fresh in the minds of many power consumers, but crews this time have had days to prepare - rather than hours.

Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro all say that they will open emergency shelters if we do get widespread power outages.

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