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West Virginia EM preparing for Hurricane Laura

CHARLESTON — The state of West Virginia is preparing for the possibility of severe weather from the remnants of Hurricane Laura, the Division of Emergency Management said Thursday.

The storm is expected to reach West Virginia by this weekend.

As forecasts became more precise, the division and its partners began preparing to respond to the threat, the division said. The state Emergency Operations Center has expanded briefings and remains on enhanced watch due to the pandemic, the division said.

Emergency organizations around West Virginia already are in daily contact with planners in Charleston since the pandemic began, but have been kept apprised of the storm, said Rick Woodyard, director of the 911 Center in Wood County.

Organizations have mutual aid agreements, which could lead to temporary assignments to areas if needed, he said.

The latest forecasts show the storm will impact southern West Virginia more so than the Mid-Ohio Valley, Woodyard said. If that changes and it appears the region here could be harder hit, the 911 Center will notify residents, said Woodyard, who advises residents to be prepared, such as having extra gasoline for generators.

“We’ll start putting out info,” he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Guard, state agencies, county emergency management offices and groups including the Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters and the Red Cross are being briefed, the Division of Emergency Management said. Joining the briefings are the State Resiliency Office for coordination of events and the National Weather Service for the current forecasts.

“Because of the possibility of severe weather for West Virginia due to Hurricane Laura, we’ve brought together our partner agencies and county emergency managers to be ready if response is needed,” Thom Kirk, acting director of the division, said. “At all times, (the division) stands ready to provide all possible resources to protect the lives and property of all our citizens. In addition to our enhanced watch due to COVID-19, we continue our mission by coordinating the state’s response efforts to severe weather or any other threat.”

In the meantime, Kent Leonhardt, state commissioner of agriculture, encouraged farmers and landowners to be prepared to protect crops or livestock, such as moving things out of the floodplain and making sure chainsaws are ready.

“These types of events can block roads for days and knock out electricity for weeks,” he said. “This can cause feed stores and farm suppliers to close for extended periods of time. Farmers should take the necessary action to prepare.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is cautioning consumers about giving to charities for Hurricane Laura relief.

Criminals will fraudulently solicit charitable donations, so those who want to give to a charity or organization should confirm it is registered with the proper state government office, he said. People can access that information through the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office or by contacting state officials in Louisiana and Texas, Morrisey said.

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