RICHMOND, Va. — “You definitely feel for the people.”
The images of past hurricanes are still in the mind of Maj. Alexander Samms, the Deputy District Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers based in Norfolk.
He was deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and Irma. When they visited a house to help rebuild a roof, a woman came out crying. She was so happy to see them.
“She actually said it was the best day of her life – better than her wedding day,” Maj. Samms said.
Now Maj. Samms is preparing for a storm closer to home: Dorian.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved part of their operations to Richmond before the Commonwealth feels any of the impacts from the hurricane in the coming days.
About 40 people were in a hotel conference room used by the department when they relocated operations. Officials say it’s easier to coordinate in Richmond with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the state’s emergency operations center.
The main headquarters in Norfolk could see effects from storm surge.
“Headquarters could have potentially up to seven feet of rain inside Norfolk headquarters,” he added.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a number of different jobs. They work by requests from FEMA to help restore power, clear debris from roadways, check federal waterways and assess damage.
“We go do structural assessments of buildings that might exceed the state’s capabilities,” Maj. Samms explained. “So we send engineers out to make sure the building is safe to enter.”
Right now about 50 generators are on standby at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to be distributed to communities in need, Maj. Samms says.
While Virginia looks like it will be spared a direct hit, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing for the storm as if it were right in the path of the hurricane.
When requested by FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also helps with disaster assessments after a storm.