Hurricane Sandy made landfall last night, lashing the Northeast with rain and heavy winds before being downgraded to a tropical storm.
Though Blacksburg and Virginia Tech are outside of the storms direct path, the area has prepared for the worst.
Governor Bob McDonnell has declared a state of emergency across the commonwealth, activating emergency response teams and increasing access to emergency funding from the state for local governments responding to the storm.
While the Northeast will continue to feel the brunt of winds and rain from the storm, the Virginia Governor’s office issued a press release warning of the potential for persistent dangerous weather conditions in the state, especially in coastal regions.
“Due to the track of this storm, and the fact that it will be a hurricane transitioning into a more nor’easter like system, we could see severe weather lasting for 48 hours or more in the state,” McDonnell said in a press release.
An executive order from McDonnell related to the storm caused a great deal of confusion amongst Tech students, faculty, and staff Sunday night as the university announced classes would be canceled and offices closed, only to retract the announcement half an hour later.
Larry Hincker, Associate Vice President for University Relations, dismissed the bungled announcement as a misinterpretation of McDonnell’s decision to close schools across the state. The governor’s office did not intend the order to be applied to Virginia’s institutions of higher learning, which were to make independent decisions based on local conditions.
While Tech was open Monday, colleges in other parts of the state were not. Schools, colleges and universities throughout the state have already been closed, as have federal government offices in Washington, DC.
Squires Student Center Monday night was bustling with students who expressed little concern about the worsening weather conditions outside. Televisions were tuned to on-location reports of immanent danger in locations close to the storm center, as students ate and worked nearby, paying little attention.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as bad for us because we are so far west,” said junior psychology and human development major Cailin Clinton. “I think the only problem we are going to have is maybe ice from the precipitation on the ground. Transportation might be difficult, but I think we’ll still have classes tomorrow.”
Senior geography major Ryan Torino agreed.
“I think it’s worse further north, we’re at the far southern end of it. I’m not too worried about it,” Torino said.
Students did wonder about the potential of losing power, hearing from friends that Terrace View and The Village had suffered power outages earlier in the day. Appalachian Power Company reported the power failure was the result of an equipment issue unrelated to the inclement weather. Most residents affected by the outage had their electric service restored by Monday night.
The Town of Blacksburg encourages residents to be prepared and to use common sense during the inclement weather. Generators should never be used indoors and residents should keep clear of downed power lines. While travel should be avoided, if you must venture out, Virginia state law requires motorists to treat intersections with non-functioning traffic signals as four-way stops.
The Tech Police Department is urging those in Blacksburg to travel only if absolutely necessary.
Blacksburg residents should report power outages and downed power lines, as well as downed trees and branches in order to ensure that crews respond as promptly as possible.