The captain of the port will close the Port of Virginia Friday at midnight in anticipation of a severe winter storm, which has been named “Winter Storm Helena” by the Weather Channel.
Commercial vessels will be prohibited from entering and departing the Chesapeake Bay. Additionally, movement within the Port of Virginia will be closed to vessel traffic 5,000 gross tons or greater unless permission is granted by the Captain of the Port. The Coast Guard says that the forecasted snow and wind in the area is likely to create particularly hazardous conditions, to include zero visibility for those on shore and on the water.
Due to the forecasted conditions, it may difficult for Coast Guard units to get underway to assist distressed mariners on the water. "There is a real danger to all vessels on the water," said Capt. Kevin M. Carroll, Deputy Sector Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads. "Recreational vessels and casual boaters are at a greater risk during winter storm conditions. Do not make plans to get underway, wait for the hazardous conditions to pass."
Blizzard warnings are in effect for the Virginia coastline as the storm front approaches, including areas near Hampton, Norfolk and Portsmouth. The storm has already affected the West and the Deep South and is now making its way towards North Carolina. Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia have all declared states of emergency.