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Hurricanes and Earthquakes Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Hurricanes and Earthquakes

Do you have questions about hurricane or earthquake preparedness/response? Join Dave McKernan, Office of Emergency Management coordinator, as he takes your questions about Hurricane Irene and Tuesday's earthquake.

David McKernan : Good Morning,

What a week!  As we recover from the earthquake, we prepare for Hurricane Irene.  It is important that every individual be prepared to sustain themselves for up to three days. I look forward to answering your questions!

David McKernan

Lisa King : Should the people of Fairfax County prepare for Hurricane Irene? Also, should my family evacuate or stay?

David McKernan : Yes, although the storm is not expected to have significant impact on Fairfax County, we should always remain prepared.  Ensure that you have food and water, medications, and special needs considerations for up to 72 hours, or 3 days.  Be prepared for power outages and stay informed.  Two ways to stay informed are through the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN) at or through our new emergency blog at

At this point there is no need to evacuate from anywhere in Fairfax County.

Rox : What kind of damage should we expect in the surrounding DC Metro? Should we expect power outages, fallen trees in the road, home damage? Should we leave the area? Thanks.

David McKernan : No significant impact is predicted for Fairfax County.  However, we must be prepared for power outages due to downed trees, and minor flooding from heavy rain.  Currently the National Weather Service predicts 2-4 inches of rain and possibly 30-50 mph wind gusts for Fairfax County.  This is subject to change depending on the path of the storm.  We will update our residents as the storm progresses.

Megan L : Is the County of Fairfax providing sandbags to residents in preparation for Hurricane Irene?

David McKernan : No, but they may be available at local supply stores.

Anonymous User : I am i the Fair Oaks area. Where is the nearest shelter if needed for evacuation purposes?

David McKernan :

At this time Fairfax County has not opened any shelters for Hurricane Irene. Emergency Management and public safety officials, as well as representatives from health and human services agencies, will be monitoring the situation this weekend, in addition to activating the county’s Emergency Operations Center to coordinate a county response. If necessay, a shelter or shelters may be opened and will be announced on the numereous public information channels the county operates, such as this blog, the county website and the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN), as well as local media. If you’re not currently registered on the CEAN, do so today ( so you can stay current on the situation and receive the latest emergency information from Fairfax County.

Anonymous User : The information I've been receiving (e.g. from Chairman Bulova''s e-mail announcements) talks about what we need to do if we are in a "flood-prone area." How do we find out if we are in a "flood-prone area"? Please provide answer on a website somewhere also as I will be unable to attend 10:00 a.m. discussion today (will transcript of discussion be posted?). We rent a house in Reston, VA. Thank you.

David McKernan : Here is a good resource for information about flood protection and special flood hazard areas:

On that page, you'll find a link to special flood hazard area maps where you can type in your address to get specific information.

R J Walker : When Hurricane Isabel hit, the New Alexandria/Belle Haven/Belleview/Huntington areas were flooded due to the storm surge. What kind of storm surge are we expecting with Irene? Can we expect the same kind of flooding that we had with Isabel? And has anything been done since Isabel to mitigate the threat of flooding?

David McKernan : At this point, storm surge is predicted to be 1-2 feet above normal.  This should have no negative impact on New Alexandria.  However, residents need to stay informed for possible changing conditions.

Based on the forecast from the National Weather Service, Fairfax County residents could experience minor roadway flooding in the Huntington area and isolated localized roadway flooding in the Belle View/New Alexandria areas. At this time, no structural flooding in either Huntington or Belle View/New Alexandria is anticipated, based on the current forecast of 2-4 inches of rainfall.

Anonymous User : If we have a downed tree who should we call, the ff co non emergency police number?

David McKernan : There are various agencies that you may call depending on where the tree falls. Here is a link with that contact information:

The Fairfax County Non-Emergency number (703-691-2131) should be used for non-emergency or routine public safety request for assistance. However, if you have an emergency, please dial 9-1-1.

Susan : Are there emergency shelters designated should they be needed after the storm?

David McKernan : Yes.  We have pre-identified 16 emergency shelter locations throughout the County.  We don't publicize those shelter locations until there is an identified need in a particular area.  Shelters are identified established because they are not in hazard zones and are accessible.

Anonymous User : What provision is being made for our homeless neighbors?

David McKernan : Our existing homeless shelters are prepared to welcome in any homeless that need assistance pending bad weather.  This includes making any additional room available depending upon any additional nubmers and need.  Outreach workers are reaching out to those who are living outside to ensure that they are aware of inclement weather and to encourage them to come in.

A list of homeless shelters is available at:

Jennifer : If we lose power, what are the recommendations for food in fridge or icebox?

David McKernan : In the event of a power outage, perishable foods including meats, dairy products and eggs that haven’t been refrigerated for more than two hours should be discarded because they are no longer safe to consume.  Foods that have been contaminated by flooding should also be discarded.  Be particularly careful to thoroughly disinfect surfaces that may come in contact with food, such as counter tops, pantry shelves, pots and pans, dishes and inside refrigerators, etc.  If your power comes back on after food is your freezer has already begun to thaw, use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature in you freezer. Food stored in the freezer at 40 F or below is safe and may be refrozen. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine the safety. Remember you can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 F or below, it is safe to refreeze.  Residents are advised to wash their hands after handling food to protect themselves and others from spreading food-borne illnesses.

Linh : Since Irene will impact the power supply to our county, how much food, water and supplies would you recommend in storage?

David McKernan : Residents need to be prepared to sustain themselves for up to 3 days.  Visit for more information and how to develop an emergency plan.

Bill G. : Is there any indication of how windy it will get here in Fairfax? Should I bring my grill and patio furniture inside?

David McKernan : National Weather Service predicts wind gusts of up to 30 to 50 mph in Fairfax County.  Residents are recommended to bring any outside furniture indoors or tied down.

Current weather forecasts are available at:

Bob : How vulnerable are we to having our power go out here in Fairfax county? I live in Fairfax Station.

David McKernan : Power outages are always possible and residents must be prepared to go without power for several days.  The Emergency Operations Center will be coordinating with all utility companies throughout the weekend to monitor outages and ensure critical infrastructure is a priority for restoration. 

Visit this link for emergency contact information for utility providers.

Peg Alpin : I just tried to sign up at and it said I need a user name and password but didn't give me an option to register ... how do I register?

David McKernan : Thank you for your question regarding the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN).  It is a great way to stay informed about emergency situations in Fairfax County.  Residents can receive alerts on their email or via text/pager. 

To register as a new user, please click on the link "Register as an INDIVIDUAL", which is located under the "Sign In or Register" banner.

Pady : I am traveling today from Alexandria, VA to Roanoke, VA. I will be coming back to Alexandria on Saturday 7:00 pm. Do you think I should make the journey, or is it too risky?

David McKernan : We have received many questions about travel plans today and this weekend.  At this time, based on current National Weather Service forecasts, vehicle travel in and around Fairfax County should be OK until Saturday mid-afternoon.  Emergency Management officials recommend staying off the roads once the storm begins.

Please check with your flight or train provider for up to date information.  Some Amtrak service has been affected.

Anonymous User : Living in Reston - Do you recommend putting an emergency kit together that could be transported to another location quickly - or do you just recommend having emergency kit supplies in the home?

David McKernan : Residents should be prepared for an emergency to occur at any place and any time.  It is best to have an emergency kit both at home, at work and in the car. 

Here's a link for additional information about making your kit:

Anonymous User : What's the likelihood of our water supply being interrupted?

David McKernan : Steps have been taken since Hurricane Isabel to mitigate power issues at our treatment plants, such as large capacity generators and other preparedness measures.  However, residents should always be prepared.  Keep bottled water on hand to last up to 3 days (one gallon per person, per day).  The Emergency Operations Center coordinates with water providers to track any possible water outages and prioritize the return of service.

David McKernan : Unfortunately we have run out of time.  Thank you so much for joining me.  We had well over 100 questions and could not answer every one.  If you need additional information or assistance with emergency preparedness, feel free to call our main number 571-350-1000.  This is a non-emergency, business hours line. 

Please sign-up for the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN) to stay informed throughout the weekend ( Our emergency blog will also contain pertinent news throughout the weekend (

Thanks again and stay safe!