BREAKING NEWS: Indian River Inlet Bridge closing, tornado warning briefly issued, more safety information released


Indian River Inlet Bridge closing, conditions deteriorating as Irene approaches

As conditions across Delmarva have started to deteriorate with the approach of Hurricane Irene, the Delaware Department of Transportation has announced that the Indian River Inlet Bridge could be closed as early as 3 p.m. on Saturday but would definitely be closed by 4 p.m.

Additionally, drawbridges statewide will be closed as of 4 p.m., meaning they will not be reopened to allow boats to travel beneath them. A number of bridges statewide are expected to be closed to vehicular traffic, as well, based on wind impacts.

Earlier this afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the area after radar indicated a possible tornado south of Rehoboth Beach. Reports indicated that a water spout was also spotted at that time and was headed onto land.

The warning was reduced back to a tornado watch a short time later, but that watch continues to be in effect, with conditions suitable for the formation of tornados continuing to be in place throughout the area.

State emergency officials are also asking residents needing storm-related information, such as the locations of shelters, location of mandatory evacuation zones, the state of emergency, etc., to call the Delaware Helpline, at 800-464-4357 or 2-1-1, for information regarding those Hurricane Irene related issues.

“Please use this service whenever possible for quick, accurate information without delays and tying up phone lines to emergency management and responders,” officials said. State officials have already asked people to avoid using 9-1-1 unless there is a life-threatening emergency, to reduce the demand on lines needed for true emergencies.

Residents going to Red Cross shelters must bring adequate supplies

Those who plan to relocate to Red Cross shelters during the storm are being reminded to bring personal supplies that cannot be provided at the shelter. Many of these supplies are necessary for individual use and some are items that will make the stay more comfortable.

Some items are as follows:
• Bedding – Everyone occupying a shelter must bring their own sheets, blankets and pillows. Those who have camping cots or inflatable mattresses are encouraged to bring them since growing shelter populations will strain the cot supply.
• Special needs foods, snacks – Shelter occupants who have special dietary needs must supply those foods. Shelters will provide cooked meals, but no prescriptive foods. Those who might want between-meal snacks are being encouraged to bring a supply. Cereals, energy bars, nuts and fruit are especially good for families with children.
• Important documents – Copies of medical records, insurance information, deeds or leases, birth certificates and utility bills showing address are important to have on hand, especially in cases where evacuees may need to prove their identity and residency before returning home. The shelter will not require them, but no one knows what the status of their home will be following the storm and having such documents can be very helpful.
• Personal hygiene items – Toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, soaps, lotions, etc., must be provided by individual.
• Medications – All medications used by those coming to shelters must be provided by the individual. People should contact their medical provider and pharmacist if they have questions or needs related to prescriptions.
• Games, books, toys to occupy children – It is very important for families to bring items that can entertain or even provide a calming effect for children. Everyone in a shelter must remember that the space will be cramped and noise should be kept at a minimum. One person’s music is another person’s headache. Loud radios, CD players and DVD players are not welcome and should not be used in close proximity to others.

When pets are brought to a shelter, the owners should provide the following:
• Medical records, vaccination history, and medications;
• Current photographs;
• Veterinarian phone number;
• Documentation of any behavior problems;
• Alternate contact information;
• First aid kit;
• Leashes, collars, or harnesses (extra sturdy), and muzzle (if necessary) with identification tags;
• A pet carrier for each animal;
• Food and water bowls, litter pan for cats;
• Food and water for at least seven days, can opener; and
• Toys and blankets.

The following Red Cross shelters are now open in Sussex County: Indian River High School, 29772 Armory Rd., Dagsboro, pet-friendly; and Milford High School, 1019 N. Walnut St., Milford, pet-friendly. UPDATED: Beacon Middle School in Lewes has reached capacity and evacuees are now being sent to the other shelters.

UPDATED: A fourth shelter is being opened at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, at Sussex Technical High School, 17099 County Seat Hwy. (Route 9), Georgetown. Pets will also be accepted there. Those seeking shelter are still being asked to seek refuge with family and friends, or at hotels, where possible, before turning to the shelters as a refuge of last resort.

If additional shelter capacity is necessary, alternate locations will be announced.

For more information on shelters, call the American Red Cross at 800-777-6620. For storm information, call Delaware Helpline at 800-464-4357 or 2-1-1; Sussex County’s emergency hotline at Sussex – (302) 856-7366; DEMA at (302) 659-3362. Web site updates and emergency preparedness information are available at delaware.gov, dema.delaware.gov, prepareDE.org, ready.gov and listo.gov.

Delmarva Power customers urged to complete storm preparations

Delmarva Power representatives announced today that the company has mobilized more than 1,000 field personnel, including utility crews from as far away as Texas and Louisiana, to assist with what will likely be a multi-day power restoration event.

In addition, they said, non-field employees have assumed special storm roles to support the restoration. These roles include damage assessors, crew guides and additional staff to answer customer calls. Delmarva Power is continuing to request mutual assistance from utility partners located in areas unaffected by the storm. The company is expecting additional crews to arrive over the next few days, representatives said.

“Restoring power in the wake of Hurricane Irene will involve all personnel at Delmarva Power,” said Gary Stockbridge, president of Delmarva Power Region. “Our first task will be to assess the damage so we can restore power as effectively and safely as possible. Once the expected tropical force winds have subsided, utility crews will hit the streets and begin the assessment and restoration process. We’re ready for the event.”

Government safety regulations do not allow overhead work to be performed in sustained winds of 35 mph or more, he noted.

“Our first priority is the safety of our customers and crews,” said Stockbridge. “We urge customers to stay clear of damaged poles and wires hanging loose from poles or lying on the ground. Do not attempt to move them. Customers should call 1-800-898-8045 to report damaged poles and downed wires. Trained crews will handle making the area safe.”

After a severe storm, such as Hurricane Irene, assessing damage and estimating when customers will be restored could take up to 24 hours after the heart of the storm has moved from the area. Delmarva Power will restore service by targeting wires serving critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, fire stations and police stations, as well as those serving the greatest number of customers. It is important that customers report their outage and request call-backs to verify their power has been restored, they said.

Delmarva Power recommends that customers complete their storm preparation by taking the following actions:
• Visit www.delmarva.com for preparation tips and follow the advice of local emergency management officials.
• Assemble an emergency "storm kit," including: a battery-powered radio or television; flashlight; a first-aid kit; battery-powered or windup clock; extra batteries; special-needs items, such as an insulated cooler; a list of important and emergency phone numbers.
• If you or someone you know uses life-support equipment that requires electricity to operate, identify a location with emergency power capabilities and make plans to go there.
• Keep at least a three-day supply per-person of non-perishable foods and bottled water, as well as a hand-operated can opener.
• Have a telephone with a cord or cell phone to use as a backup. Cordless telephones require electricity to operate and won't work if there is an outage.
• Protect your electronic equipment. Unplug sensitive electronics or plug computers and other sensitive equipment into surge suppressors and consider a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for temporary battery backup power.
• Turn off power to flood-prone basement appliances if it is safe to do so. However, if you have an electrically-operated sump pump, you should not turn off your power.
• Have adequate prescription medicines or infant supplies on hand.
• Tune in to local news broadcasts for the latest weather and emergency information.
• If you use a personal generator, take all recommended precautions.
• Take cover if necessary.
• Stay away from damaged poles and downed wires. Call 1-800-898-8045 to report a damaged pole or downed wire.

“A storm of this proportion will present significant challenges. We will continue to provide updates to the media and we encourage customers to be patient and understand that we will restore power when it’s safe to do so. Our entire community is facing a storm of major proportions. The safety of our customers and our crews is our top priority,” concluded Stockbridge.
Additional information may be found at www.delmarva.com. You can also follow Delmarva Power on Twitter at www.twitter.com/delmarvaconnect.

Once again, please note that we are making real-time updates to our storm information on Facebook at www.facebook.com/coastalpoint and especially on Twitter, at www.twitter.com/coastalpoint, where we are "re-tweeting" much of the information and tips coming in from other sources. We encourage you to hunker down and follow the latest through those two channels. We will continue to make periodic updates on the Web site as events warrant and as time allows.