BREAKING WEATHER ALERT: December 26, 2010 Governor issues limited State of Emergency for Delaware drivers


December 26, 2010

Gov. Jack Markell has issued a limited State of Emergency with a “Level 1 Driving Warning” to begin at 4 p.m. Sunday in Kent and Sussex counties for a storm that is now predicted to dump up to 18 inches of snow on the southern part of the state and up to 8 inches in the north.  The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the Delaware coastal area.   Heavy snow and high wind is expected make driving dangerous and ill-advised during some periods.
 
DelDOT crews began working overnight to prepare and plow roads, and the governor this morning deployed Delaware National Guard personnel to man heavy equipment in each county and at State Police troops to assist with any local emergency needs. DEMA’s Emergency Operations Center near Smyrna has been activated and acts as a link between the Governor’s Office and cabinet and emergency responders around the state.
 
“With DelDOT crews working around the clock, the National Guard activated and our state and local emergency responders at the ready, the state is fully prepared for the first big storm of this winter but we ask everyone to use good judgment and stay off the roads,” Markell said.
 
According to Markell, “With heavy snow and wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour, travel on some of the state’s roads will be very dangerous, will hamper the plowing operations and may result in the need to rescue drivers from snow drifts. As such, we strongly urge people to stay off the roads.”
 
Under a new law passed in the wake of last winter’s snowstorms and designed to provide more clarity to drivers, Delaware now has a three-level driving warning and restriction system. The following levels are found in Title 20 of the Delaware Code, Subsection 3116(b)(12) and may be put in effect by the governor during a State of Emergency for all or parts of Delaware based on conditions.
 
· Level 1 Driving Warning: Drivers are discouraged from operating a motor vehicle on the state's roadways, unless there is a significant safety, health or business reason to do so.
· Level 2 Driving Restriction: Travel on the roads is restricted to emergency workers, public utilities, healthcare providers including hospital staff, public and private operators of snow removal equipment, private sector food and fuel deliveries, and those industries, companies or organization that have been provided a waiver, including businesses with pressing continuity and operational issues.
· Level 3 Driving Ban: Complete ban on driving except for first responders, utility personnel, and public or private snow removal. Businesses and organizations should adjust work schedules so that employees do not need to be on the roads during a Level 3 Driving Ban.
 
The Level 1 Driving Warning issued by the Governor starts at 4 p.m. Sunday in Kent and Sussex and is expected to last at least until Sunday evening.  Conditions will continue to be assessed to determine if the Level 1 Driving Warning should be extended to New Castle County, but drivers are encouraged to be cautious and refrain from the roads unnecessarily as conditions worsen. Public notification will be made when the warning is lifted.

Weather conditions turn hazardous as DelDOT snow removal crews work into the evening

As the winter storm settles in over Delaware, crews from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) will continue working into the night.  Crews are focusing their efforts on primary and multi-lane roads, working to keep ahead of the snow accumulation.

In accord with the Level I State of Emergency, that has been issued by Markell, drivers are being discouraged from driving unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. Conditions will continue to be assessed to determine if the Level 1 Driving Warning should be extended to New Castle County, but drivers are encouraged to be cautious and refrain from the roads unnecessarily as conditions worsen. Public notification will be made when the warning is lifted.

Road conditions vary:

In Sussex County, the main roads are passable, but snow covered. "Passable" means that roads can be driven upon, but only if the motorists uses extreme caution. The secondary and minor roads in Sussex County have not been plowed, so many of them may not be passable.

In Kent County, the roads are more snow-covered in the southern edges of the county. In the northern part of the county, many of the roads are wet, but conditions could change quickly. DelDOT crews report all the primary roads are passable in Kent, and some of the minor roads have been plowed.

In New Castle County, the interstates and major roads are wet, with no snow coverage. New Castle has received significantly less snowfall than southern Delaware.

State of Emergency:

Under a new law passed in the wake of last winter’s snowstorms and designed to provide more clarity to drivers, Delaware now has a three-level driving warning and restriction system. A Level 1 Driving Warning means: Drivers are discouraged from operating a motor vehicle on the state's roadways, unless there is a significant safety, health or business reason to do so.

State, local agencies respond to storm
Team efforts extended for public safety

 
With a Limited State of Emergency declared in Sussex and Kent counties, and a Blizzard Warning posted for Sussex County, state agencies and organizations are responding to this snow storm on many levels. Although snow accumulation is less in New Castle County at this time, actions are underway to ensure safety there as well.
 
Sussex County Emergency Operations Center has activated the EOC Storm Hotline for those who have questions regarding State of Emergency, road conditions, weather outlook. For updates and answers in Sussex, call (302) 856-7366.
 
According to reports from Delaware Department of Transportation, in Sussex County, the main roads are passable, but snow covered. "Passable" means that roads can be driven upon, but only if the motorists uses extreme caution. The secondary and minor roads in Sussex County have not been plowed, so many of them may not be passable.
 
In Kent County, the roads are more snow-covered in the southern edges of the county. In the northern part of the county, many of the roads are wet, but conditions could change quickly. DelDOT crews report all the primary roads are passable in Kent, and some of the minor roads have been plowed.
 
The Limited State of Emergency declared at 4 P.M. carries the Level 1 Driving Warning designation. Drivers are discouraged from operating motor vehicles on state roadways unless they have a significant safety, health or business reason to do so. Drivers may be issued a warning under these circumstances.
 
In New Castle County, the interstates and major roads are wet, with no snow coverage. New Castle has received significantly less snowfall than southern Delaware, but is expected to have accumulation of eight to 12 inches before the storm moves out Monday.
 
Delaware National Guard Joint Operations Center is activated and there are approximately 150 soldiers and 40 vehicles supporting Emergency Operations Centers throughout the state, including each county and City of Wilmington. Guard soldiers are also supporting Delaware State Police Troops. Guard vehicles in use are Humvees, tactical personnel transport and wreckers for assisting in towing disabled vehicles.

Spokesman Lt. Col. Leonard Gratteri said, “In addition to those soldiers active now, the Guard has hundreds of troops on standby and available for activation. We plan on conducting operations around the clock until the event is completed. We work in conjunction with DEMA, DelDOT, State Police and Highway Safety to support the citizens of Delaware.”
 
Reports from Delaware State Police indicate that there are few accidents in Sussex and Kent at this time. In New Castle County where the lesser snow fall might lead to more drivers being out, there have been three personal injury accidents and 15 property damage accidents.
 
There were very few power outages as of 5:30 P.M., but Delmarva Power and the Delaware Electric Cooperative are working to respond to any outages and to maintain service to their customers. They recognize the potential for downed lines with steady and gusting winds of the magnitude of this storm. As support partners, the utilities have representatives in the State Emergency Operations Center who serve as communications liaisons with emergency management officials and responders.
 
Delaware Emergency Management Agency is coordinating communications among local emergency management offices and all relevant state officials and organizations. The public is being urged to monitor all weather conditions and follow their household emergency plan to remain safe and to protect property. Whenever possible to do so safely, check on neighbors, family and friends who might need assistance. For tips on emergency planning, see www.dema.delaware.gov, www.delawarecitizencorps.org and www.ready.gov.