Youngkin declares state of emergency ahead of Tropical Storm Ophelia

By: - September 22, 2023 4:57 pm

(Charlie Paullin/Virginia Mercury)

Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency in Virginia Friday ahead of a tropical storm that is expected to bring severe rainfall and flooding, as well as potential wind damage to the commonwealth. 

“As this storm has organized and strengthened, it’s becoming clear based on the latest forecasts that impacts to the commonwealth are likely,” said Youngkin. “We want to ensure that all communities, particularly those with the greatest anticipated impact, have the resources they need to respond and recover from the effects of this storm.” 

Michael Brennan, director of the National Hurricane Center, said Virginia will see significant storm surge along the coastlines and rivers, as well as heavy rainfall beginning Friday evening and continuing throughout Saturday. Rain is expected to ease on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a rough day in portions of central and eastern Virginia,” he said. 

As a result of Tropical Storm Ophelia, the National Hurricane Center is forecasting that coastal Virginia could see 2 to 4 feet of storm surge above the normal ground level, with the surge lasting over multiple tide cycles. 

(National Weather Service)

At the same time, Hampton Roads is expected to see between 3 to 5 inches of rainfall, with up to 7 inches possible in some places, said Brennan. The Interstate 95 corridor stretching from roughly Richmond up to Northern Virginia will see about 2 to 4 inches of rainfall.

The combination of storm surge and heavy precipitation is likely to produce flooding throughout the eastern portion of the state.

“The rainfall is not going to be able to drain very well,” said Brennan. 

In addition to water impacts, forecasters expect sustained 40 mph winds with occasional gusts and some risk of tornadoes developing in the eastern portion of the state.

However, said Brennan, “we’re not expecting widespread significant wind damage.” 

The state of emergency declared by Youngkin Friday gives Virginia greater flexibility to mobilize resources and equipment to respond to the storm, including activating Virginia’s Emergency Operations Center and the Virginia Emergency Support Team, putting into effect anti-price gouging measures and authorizing up to $350,000 in response and recovery funding. 

“Since this storm has the potential to have a range of impacts across numerous localities in the commonwealth, I encourage all Virginians and visitors to keep up with the latest forecast for their area from a trusted source, make a plan, and have their emergency kits ready,” said Youngkin. 

Brennan said Virginians should remember that the deadliest hazard of tropical storms is water, with most fatalities linked to fresh water flooding. 

“Saturday’s going to be a pretty good day to be inside,” he said.   


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists.