WEATHER ALERT: Storm warning reduced for Sussex, driving precautions still urged


New Castle and Kent counties on Tuesday afternoon remained under a Winter Storm Warning until 10 a.m., Wednesday morning. Lower predicted snow totals, however, dropped the designation to a Winter Storm Advisory in Sussex County; also in effect until 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Snowfall totals in New Castle were expected to be up to 7 inches, with 5 to 6 inches for Kent County. Sussex may see as little an inch, but accumulation could reach 4 inches, with higher amounts in western Sussex.

The public is being cautioned to avoid unnecessary travel, especially later in the evening hours, when snow fall is expected to be heaviest. Along the Atlantic coast, rain may fall intermittently and freeze on roadways as evening temperatures drop, officials noted. Light snow is expected to start around evening rush hour, 4:30 to 5 p.m., in Sussex and southern Kent counties. Snow should be steady in New Castle County between 6 and 7 p.m. With temperatures in the 20s by midnight, all precipitation will be snow.

Delaware State Police Sgt. Paul Shavack, said, "Motorists should be prepared for slippery roads and limited visibilities, which make driving conditions difficult. Use caution while driving when approaching intersections and off ramps. Motorists should reduce their normal speed on the highways and secondary roads."

Alison Kirk, spokesperson for the Office of Highway Safety, added, “Driving during snow storms can increase your chances of being involved in a crash because of potential hazards, such as low visibility, icy road conditions, snow drifts and stranded vehicles on or near roadways. We urge motorists to stay home and off the roads during snowstorms and let the snowplows and salt trucks clear the roads before venturing out. If you must be on the roads, take precautions.”

If they have to drive in snowy conditions, Kirk said, drivers should allow themselves extra time to reach their destination. She said drivers need to leave themselves plenty of room between vehicles, allowing more room to stop. When stopping, she advised braking gently to avoid skidding. She also reminded drivers that they should drive with headlights on in bad weather conditions so they can be seen by other motorists.

Snowfall is predicted to taper off by day break Wednesday, however, everyone should monitor weather and road conditions before the morning commute hours, officials said.

As snow reaches measurable levels, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) will commence plowing operations. Major routes will be given the highest priority to be open and passable.

DelDOT spokesman Jim Westhoff said, “A particular concern is the timing of this storm. As much of the snow is expected to fall overnight, there will be hazardous road conditions for the morning rush hour. Crews will work through the night to reduce these dangers, but motorists should prepare for snow-covered and/or icy roads tomorrow morning.”

State and local emergency management officials and response partners continue to monitor the weather and remain in communication with the National Weather Service. The state Emergency Operation Center will be minimally staffed overnight unless conditions change and require additional staffing.

The public is being encouraged to use this time to check family emergency supplies and review emergency plans. Although this snow should be out of the state by morning, it’s always wise, officials said, to have a three-day supply of water, food and medications on hand. Emergency officials reminded the public that the state is not halfway through January 2011, and Delaware is experiencing a third snow.

Crews prepare for snowstorm

As the forecast becomes more focused, crews from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) were standing ready for the snowstorm predicted to begin Tuesday afternoon and into Wednesday morning. Officials said DelDOT maintenance forces are spending the pre-storm hours preparing the trucks and pre-treating additional roads.

Staff, they said, are also making plans for how they will monitor the weather forecasts tonight to determine exactly when crews will begin snow removal operations to keep the roads safe throughout Delaware.

Crews focused Monday on advance pre-treating work with brine. The goal of those efforts was to apply the salt and water mixtures a day early, to avoid a possible time constraint if they had waited until Tuesday.

DelDOT pre-treats roads with a salt and water mixture known as brine. It is designed to prevent or slow down any accumulation on the road. The water content of brine allows it to be effective days after it is applied to the road surface.

As the storm becomes heavier, plowing operations will commence once accumulations reach measurable levels. Major routes will be given the highest priority to be open and passable.

A particular concern, officials said, is the timing of the storm. As much of the snow is expected to fall overnight, hazardous road conditions are expected for the morning rush hour. Crews will work through the night to reduce these dangers, officials said, but motorists should prepare for snow-covered and/or icy roads Wednesday morning.

To receive the most accurate and up-to-date information on conditions and incidents on this snow event, the public can visit DelDOT’s Web site at http://www.dedot.gov, the DelDOT Twitter account at www.twitter.com/delawaredot, or the DelDOT Facebook account at www.facebook.com/delawaredot.

DelDOT is also now offering answers to some frequently asked questions, such as DelDOT snow and ice event procedures, emergency numbers and information on driving restrictions, in a FAQ online at http://deldot.gov/home/faq_snow/.

AAA: Clear cars of ice and snow to avoid being a hazard

AAA is reminding drivers to clear snow and ice off their vehicles before leaving their driveways or parking lots.

“Don’t compromise safety. It’s more than common courtesy to remove snow and ice from your car - it prevents crashes and injuries,” said Jim Lardear, director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “In Pennsylvania, you are liable if a chunk of snow or ice injures or kills a pedestrian or fellow driver. AAA advises drivers to take a few extra minutes to clean off the ice and snow from their vehicles."

With ice still on the ground in many areas and temperatures predicted to drop below freezing, Lardear said it is advisable to drive slowly, especially in neighborhoods whose roadways aren’t always treated.

AAA’s Top Five Tips Following a Snow/Ice Storm:

(1) Remove ice or snow. Take time to remove the snow from the entire car so it doesn’t blow onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Clear windows, mirrors and lights.

(2) Defrost your locks. Use a lighter to quickly heat the metal tip of your electronic car key so that it can slip into the lock or se a lock de-icer. Push car door inward slightly to break the ice around it. Avoid frozen locks by spraying the rubber gasket with dry silicone to prevent ice from adhering to the lock.

(3) Watch the ice. If you hit an icy patch on the road, steer in the direction you want to go. If the drive wheels start to spin or slide while going up a hill, ease off the accelerator slightly and then gently resume speed. Don't use cruise control in precipitation and freezing temperatures.

(4) Check visibility. Make sure windshield wipers and defrosters are in good working order.

(5) Watch others. Now is not the time to be distracted by electronic devices or anything else. Watch other vehicles. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra seconds to react.