WEATHER ALERT: Blizzard warning in effect Friday and Saturday, up to 18 inches of snow, strong winds forecast


The National Weather Service in Mount Holly has issued a blizzard warning, which is in effect from 4 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Saturday. The previous winter storm watch is no longer in effect.

A storm system developing over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday will pass off the Carolina coast Friday night and then continue to the northeast on Saturday.

Snow from this system will overspread the region from south to north Friday afternoon, then continue through much of Saturday. Snowfall totals of 12 to 18 inches are expected near the Delaware and central New Jersey coast, with up to 24 inches possible over southern New Jersey and central Delmarva.

Strengthening winds Friday night and Saturday will create blowing and drifting snow, which will reduce visibilities to under a quarter-mile at times.

A blizzard warning means severe winter weather conditions are expected. Falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibilities are likely. This will lead to whiteout conditions, making travel extremely dangerous. Continue to monitor the latest forecasts.

State agencies and National Guard planning for winter storm

With the winter storm just 24 hours away, employees from agencies throughout Delaware were getting ready at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4. Crews from Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) spent the day performing maintenance, checking levels of supplies such as salt and sand, as well as diesel fuel.

Officials said DelDOT workers were to spend Friday pre-treating the roads with a salt and water mixture, called brine. With the recent shipment of more than 10,000 tons of salt, DelDOT's stockpile is now full, with 50,000 available for salt ready for snow operations, they noted.

"There has been a lot of warning with this storm, so, hopefully, people will have made enough plans that they can stay off the roads this weekend," said Jim Westhoff, DelDOT spokesman. "The fewer vehicles on the road, the sooner we can clear the roads."

"The Delaware National Guard is working with its state partners to ensure the safety of the citizens of Delaware,” said 2nd Lt. Nathan Bright, spokesman for Delaware National Guard. “We have ample Soldiers, Airmen and specialized equipment to assist DEMA and local relief efforts should they be needed. In past storms, our forces have provided transportation with our Humvees and large trucks, emergency power with diesel generators, and clean drinking water after the storm."

The Delaware State Police (DSP) on Thursday evening was in the process of reassigning its four-wheel-drive assets to troops throughout the state to ensure troopers are able to respond to emergency complaints.

With the predicted forecast, Sgt. Walter Newton, public information officer for DSP, said, "We ask that people refrain from driving as much as possible during the height of the storm. If you have to venture out please exercise caution. Make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas and is in good working order. Bring blankets with you as well as a cell phone and charger. If you do become stranded make sure your exhaust is clear from debris. Stay with your vehicle and run the engine in intervals to maintain warm within the interior of the car. When calling 911 for assistance, make sure you give your exact location and any landmarks that would aid the trooper in locating you."

Newton said that state police will continue to monitor the storm track and respond as needed.

"The Office of Highway Safety (OHS) encourages you to prepare now for tomorrow's storm," said OHS spokesperson Andrea Summers. "Please run your errands before Friday night so that you will not need to be out on the roads unnecessarily this weekend. The weekend weather event is currently expected to produce conditions that will make driving extremely hazardous therefore driving should be limited only to emergencies this weekend. Sightseeing trips to check out the amount of snow various parts of the state have received will be strongly discouraged."

Major winter storm could bring two feet of snow, blizzard conditions to Sussex County

Meanwhile, Sussex County officials warned on Thursday afternoon that the major winter storm could unleash 2 feet of new snow and blizzard conditions on Sussex County in the next 24 to 36 hours, potentially bringing travel and commerce in the region to a standstill for much of the busy Super Bowl weekend.

“Forecasters are predicting a range of 12 to 24 inches of snow to fall across the county beginning Friday afternoon and lasting into late in the day Saturday. The snow, possibly mixed with sleet and rain, could fall at the rate of 2 inches an hour, with 30 mph winds and visibilities under one-quarter mile, resulting in whiteout conditions,” they warned.

Tidal flooding also is possible with this potentially dangerous coastal storm, they noted. “Property owners should prepare now by removing or securing loose objects, and residents should stock up on provisions in the event travel is not possible and power is out in the coming days.”

“Although we are facing a major snowstorm, the public needs to keep in mind that this is a coastal storm with strong winds and possible flooding,” Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph L. Thomas said. “There could be numerous, widespread effects from this storm from one end of the county to the other.”

The storm comes on the heels of two other winter systems within the past week that have already left a foot of snow in their wake, closing schools and forcing road crews to work overtime. Emergency planners are urging the public to prepare now for the strong possibility of impossible travel, widespread power outages, downed trees, as well as coastal and inland flooding as a result of this latest storm.

Travel on Friday evening through Saturday night is strongly discouraged. However, if travel is necessary, motorists should be prepared with basic supplies on hand, including an ice scraper, blankets, sand or cat litter, de-icer, flashlight and batteries, mobile telephone, high-calorie non-perishable food and water, and a full tank of gas.

Residents should prepare themselves with basic household supplies, including extra food and water, first-aid supplies, flashlights and batteries, a battery-powered weather radio, extra prescription medicines, baby items, an emergency heat source and sufficient heating fuel.

The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center will continue to monitor forecasts for the impending storm and work closely with other local and state governmental agencies. Further updates will be issued should they become necessary. Additional staff will be on standby in the event the EOC is activated.

No evacuations have been ordered, but Thomas said emergency planners can activate sheltering if conditions warrant.

For a list of road closures as they are posted, visit the Delaware Department of Transportation Web site at www.deldot.gov. To view a map of power outages in Sussex County, visit Delmarva Power’s Web site at www.delmarva.com and the Delaware Electric Cooperative’s Web site at www.delaware.coop.

The Sussex County EOC requests that residents and property owners with photographs of flooding or other storm damage send them through the County Web site. Visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/stormphotos to upload storm images.

For updates, stay tuned to local television and radio stations, the Coastal Point Web site, and the Sussex County EOC Web site, at www.sussexcountyde.gov/services/storm. Members of the public who have questions regarding this information should contact the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center at (302) 855-7801.

Event cancellations begin, public encouraged to post notices

The Town of South Bethany Budget and Finance Committee meeting scheduled For Feb. 6, has been canceled. The meeting has been re-scheduled for Feb. 13, from noon to 2 p.m.

Notices of any additional closings or cancellations due to this storm, or of significant damage from the storm, should be posted as comments to this story.