Old Town Alexandria residents, employees rescued as streets flood ahead of Florence

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Approximately fifteen residents and employees in Old Town were rescued from flooded streets as heavy rain and high tide brought in high water on Sunday night.

This flooding comes as cities across the East Coast begin to prepare for Hurricane Florence.

The Alexandria Friday Department says crews with the Inland Water Rescue Team brought out boats to transport stranded citizens at local businesses to dry grounds.

While King Street at Union Street is the heart of Old Town, business owners say the spot is notorious for flooding.

However, they say the water rose faster than usual.

“It’s generally a slow kind of rise, this happened like instantly almost, and it happened very quickly,” says Michael Markson, General Manager of Mia’s Italian Kitchen.

Police shut down several roads and individuals were warned to move their vehicles from flooded areas. However, some vehicles were stuck in the high waters.

Markson says they are bracing for the same thing to happen again on Monday night during high tide.

According to city leaders, they distributed 2,500 sand bags on Monday for that reason, and in preparation for Hurricane Florence.

As of Monday, Florence is a Category 4, according to the National Hurricane Center. Local, state and federal officials are warning the public to prepare for what they say could be Virginia’s “most significant hurricane event in decades.”

The Alexandria Fire Department says they have the rescue boats cross-staffed, but plan to have dedicated staffing at the end of the week.

“If the boats are needed, the crew will hop on the truck, take them out, and we will go wherever they are needed,” says Captain Jason Kuehler, Program Manager for the Inland Water Rescue Team. “We’re maintaining 24-hour vigil over it.”

Corey Smedley, Emergency Management Coordinator for Alexandria, says they are in talks with local, regional, and statewide agencies.

Crews are taking the time to make sure city equipment is fully-functioning, and checking on power lines, trees, and shrubs.

“Alexandria is a flood prone area already so the good news is we are prepared for that,” says Smedley.

Citizens are encouraged to know which zone their home or business is located.

On Saturday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency and urged Virginians to monitor forecasts.