Tropical Depression Ernesto

Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 711, FAX 703-324-2010

Aug. 30, 2006

Fairfax County Encourages Residents to Prepare
for Potential Impact of Tropical Depression Ernesto

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for Fairfax County and most of the metropolitan region beginning Thursday afternoon, Aug. 31, due to the potential for flooding from the remnants of Tropical Depression Ernesto. The weather service also has issued a coastal flooding watch for areas along the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Rainfall amounts ranging between 5 and 10 inches are possible, with the bulk of the rain falling early Friday morning to late Friday evening. Flash and coastal flood watches do not mean flooding is imminent, but that conditions could be favorable for flooding.

Fairfax County is preparing for any potential hazardous weather conditions. Staff members from public works, public safety and other agencies are coordinating planning and potential response efforts, while also working with other regional organizations.

As Fairfax County prepares, all residents also are advised to prepare by monitoring the predictions for rain and potential flooding. The National Weather Service will issue any imminent threats in the form of warnings as conditions warrant, and Fairfax County will respond with appropriate actions and provide information to the public on steps to take. Listen for the most local, up-to-date information from emergency officials. Information is also provided to the local media and residents are encouraged to listen to local radio and television stations. Updates also will be available at and by calling the county’s emergency information line at 703-817-7771, TTY 711.

In addition, all residents are encouraged to sign up for the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN) to receive emergency, weather and traffic updates through cell phones, e-mail, pagers and other portable devices. Sign up at

Residents of the Belle View, New Alexandria and Huntington communities also are encouraged to subscribe to RiverWatch, an e-mail update service for those specific neighborhoods, which are close to the Potomac River and have experienced flooding in the past. Sign up at

Residents need to know what to do during flash floods, which can develop with little or no warning. Follow these tips to stay safe:

If a flood is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.

If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:

  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items and valuables to an upper floor.
  • 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.

If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:

  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.

The following are important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-ups.

Tropical weather systems have the potential to produce tornadoes. Follow this advice:

  • Know the names of the counties, cities and towns near you. It will be easier to track a tornado’s direction if you are familiar with the geography of your area.
  • Know the difference between a tornado watch and warning: A tornado WATCH means weather conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. A tornado WARNING means a tornado has actually been sighted. Warnings are issued for individual counties and include the tornado’s location, direction and speed. If you are in or near its path, seek shelter immediately. Don’t attempt to look for the tornado. Many Virginia tornadoes are obscured by rain and may not be visible at all or until it is too late to take cover.
  • Find appropriate shelter and protect yourself while there. The best place to be during a tornado is an interior, windowless room on the lowest level of a sturdy building. If you are outside, in your automobile or in a mobile home, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If none is available, lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your arms. Mobile homes are extremely unsafe during tornadoes.

More detailed information about how to stay safe during an emergency is available at


For more news and information, visit

To request this information in an alternate format, call the Office of Public Affairs at 703-324-3187, TTY 711.

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