Peninsula residents prepare, or not, for Hurricane Earl
A yacht is lifted out of the water Wednesday, September 1, 2010, at the Bluewater Yacht Marina in Hampton. Workers said they expect to have about 50 boats dry docked before the storm hits. (Diane Mathews, Daily Press / September 1, 2010)
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Earl's outer edge is expected to arrive Thursday, projected to skirt Virginia's east coast with winds producing a strong storm surge and heavy rain possible. Flooding of low-lying areas is the biggest concern here.
Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency Wednesday as a precaution ahead of the storm.
Kim Hames wasn't taking any chances with her Ridge Road home in Poquoson. Her family moved in a year before Hurricane Isabel in 2003, and the house sustained water damage.
Wednesday Hames was mowing her lawn, putting tarps down in front of the windows and doors in her house and preparing her family to go to a relative's home in Hampton Thursday.
Last year, three storms in November pushed water through the front of her house and ruined the floors.
"I just had brand new hardwood floors put in here," Hames said. "I would die if it happened again."
Out at Grandview Beach in Hampton, Heather Shook was unloading supplies from her car in preparation for the storm. She has lived in her home on Lighthouse Drive for 23 years, and said it was the first house in Hampton to be raised from ground level to elevation after Isabel.
"I think I've adapted to the pulse of the storms that come through," Shook said. "But it's just like a little slice of life, sometimes they're really bad and sometimes not as bad."
Shook's family evacuated for Isabel, but she wasn't planning to do that for Earl unless there's a mandatory evacuation. But she had stocked up on canned and boxed food, bottled water, pet food and batteries.
Neighbors in the neighborhood, which was battered by Isabel, share information during times like these, Shook said. Some monitor multiple weather channels and short-wave radios to collect information.
It's just part of the uncertainly of living on the waterfront.
"You have to be prepared for whatever comes and accept what happens," Shook said.
Out in Poquoson, waterman Tracy Firman was getting ready to move his boat to a safer cove to avoid possible buffeting winds and waves. The longtime clammer was waiting on a welder to repair his clam tongs, and said he wasn't worried about Earl.
"I'm not sweating this one," Firman said. "The tide tells its tale. Even with the storm surge, we'll see it in the tide tonight."
Some crabbers were pulling up their pots Wednesday, but most work boats were still operating.
"Everybody's planning on working tomorrow," Firman said.
Up at Bill Forrest Seafood in Poquoson, owner Bill Forrest Jr. was admittedly dragging his feet. He had moved his recreational boats to higher ground, and was planning on relocating some trucks.
But otherwise it was wait and see.
"I'm going to wait until the last minute," Forrest said. "Oh, we'll be ready and hopefully it won't be bad."
He lost a fortune in crab meat that was ruined during Isabel, but saved all of it with freezer trucks during last November's nor'easter. This time he has to decide how to protect $20,000 worth of meat, he said.
"Everybody's scared to death," Forrest said. "But most of the watermen around here, they wait until the last minute."
North Carolina's Outer Banks are the biggest concern, said National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read. The angle of the storm's path will determine how much of the Virginia and North Carolina coasts are affected.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials had supplies on standby, according to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.
Carl Hanes of Newport News kept an eye on the weather report as he headed for the beach near his rented vacation home in Avon, N.C. He, his wife and their two teenage children were anticipating Earl might force them to leave on Thursday, a day ahead of schedule.
"We're trying not to let it bother us," Hanes said before enjoying the calm surf.
Staff writer David Macaulay and the Associated Press contributed to this report.