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Gov says storm could last longest in Northern Virginia

Gov. Bob McDonnell today said residents of Northern Virginia might feel the effects of Hurricane Sandy longer than those in other areas of the state, with rain and wind lasting possibly into Wednesday.

That’s because the storm is expected to hit land in New Jersey — closer to the northern parts of Virginia — and turn inland.

The track, McDonnell said, “puts the center of the storm closer to Northern Virginia a couple of days from now.”

He said northern parts of the state will also feel the “wraparound effect of the backside of the storm” as it moves north.

McDonnell said state police and National Guard resources are being sent to Northern Virginia in anticipation that the storm could stick around there after it has left other regions of Virginia.

McDonnell was speaking as part of a storm update at the state’s emergency operations center.

He said the time to prepare for the storm was “yesterday” and urged residents to make sure they’re ready for an unusually long storm, combined with cold weather.

“We’re expecting significant power outages,” McDonnell said. “We’re just at the early stages of the storm. … Virtually all areas of the commonwealth will be affected over the next 24 hours. … It’s not going to abate in 24, 36 hours like a lot of storms have.”

He said Hampton Roads is already getting bands of rain and wind, and that about 20,000 Dominion customers there had already lost power, although Dominion has restored most of those to power as of Sunday afternoon.

McDonnell and VDOT commissioner Greg Whirley urged Virginians to stay off the roads for the duration of the storm, to avoid accidents from ponding water and falling trees.

“We don’t want you out there in the conditions that are coming up,” Whirley said.

McDonnell said the federal government will decide later this afternoon whether to close tomorrow, and the state will make that decision shortly thereafter. He said that if people can telecommute to work, they should.

McDonnell said he has activated 415 National Guard troops and authorized up to 750 to help with storm recovery. All state troopers are on stand-by, and Dominion has called in 2,000 power workers from other states to come help with what are expected to be large power outages.

“This is going to be a long haul,” McDonnell said. “We are going to have power outages, there are going to be downed trees … Please use common sense.”

Michael Cline, coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said state officials are as prepared as they can be, but “we really don’t know what the impacts are going to be” of up to four days of rain and winds that come from two different directions.

McDonnell said he’d had a conference call with President Barack Obama and other governors and mayors of localities affected by the storm. FEMA officials are already in Virginia, he said, and he hopes to do damage assessments to apply for federal aid, if needed, as soon as possible after the storm.

The hurricane comes just days before the election, and McDonnell said elections officials have put several contingency plans in place. For the time being, registrars’ offices will be open during the storm, unless it becomes too dangerous, to allow in-person absentee voting.

Virginians can get information on the storm, and on local shelters, by calling 211, and on road conditions by calling 511 or checking

For more storm information, or to report outages if you’re a Dominion customer:

Follow VDEM on Twitter @vdem.

Dominion: 1-866-DOM HELP (366-4357)