Sussex County emergency officials on Friday morning, Nov. 13, were continuing to monitor the major coastal storm affecting the region, but said they were optimistic that once the early morning high-tide cycle was complete, conditions might gradually improve over the next 24 hours.
Widespread moderate flooding was expected to continue Friday in low-lying, flood-prone areas, particularly in and around communities surrounding the Inland Bays, along the Delaware River and near the Nanticoke River.
National Weather Service forecasters, however, now believe severe tidal flooding that had been predicted will be limited to smaller pockets in the county as the coastal storm and a blocking high pressure system to the north slowly slip eastward.
No evacuation order has been issued for Sussex County, and conditions thus far have not warranted such action, Sussex County Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph L. Thomas said.
Fire crews in the Oak Orchard-Long Neck area in eastern Sussex County, however, have assisted more than 50 people in leaving their homes to seek higher, drier ground. Approximately a dozen people relocated to the Oak Orchard Community Church on Thursday evening, where they remained overnight.
“We’re now in the next high-tide cycle, and this could be the worst yet. But from what forecasters are telling us and what we’re seeing, the conditions might not be as severe and as widespread as had been predicted,” Thomas said. “If we can get through this cycle, I believe we’ll be alright. But by no means should the public let their guard down. Motorists should exercise caution while driving, especially as dawn approaches and the morning commute begins.”
High tide at the Breakwater Harbor in Lewes occurred at 5:32 a.m., and will occur again at 5:51 p.m. Friday; at Indian River Inlet, high tide occurred at 5:13 a.m., and will occur again at 5:31 p.m. Friday. Along the Nanticoke River, at nearby Sharptown, Md., the next high tide will be at 2:31 p.m. Friday.
The Delaware Department of Transportation reported that as of 6 a.m. on Friday, Route 1 remained closed in the area of the Indian River Inlet bridge this, with waves breaching the dunes just north of the inlet and water covering the highway. DelDOT officials have again postponed the planned open house event for the new bridge construction project, likely until early 2010.
Severe beach erosion is also being reported along the area's coastline.
Fred Hudson Road north of Bethany Beach is also closed due to flooding, as were some roads in the Oak Orchard and Long Neck areas. Flooding is also impacting downtown Bethany Beach, as well as low-lying roads along the Indian River Bay and Whites and Vines creeks. Motorists are being advised to avoid driving on flooded roadways.
A state of emergency enacted by Gov. Jack Markell remained in effect in Sussex County for the purpose of deploying state resources, including Delaware National Guard trucks and personnel.
Area school districts, including Cape Henlopen, Delmar, Indian River and Milford, canceled classes on Friday due to the storm.
National Weather Service forecasts continued to call for high tides Friday morning and Friday night to run as much as 2 to 4 feet above normal, with another half-inch of rain and strong, gusty winds possible.
Forecasters expected the worst flooding conditions to occur during Friday morning’s high-tide cycle, between 4:30 and 7:30 a.m. Winds were expected to begin to diminish later Friday morning.
For a complete list of current road closures, visit the DelDOT Web site at www.deldot.gov.
As of 8 a.m. on Friday, Delaware Electric Cooperative was reporting minor power outages ranging from Cape Henlopen to Long Neck, Millsboro to areas west of Selbyville. Delmarva Power was reporting fewer than 1,000 customers without power in Sussex County, mostly in Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island and Rehoboth Beach.
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, 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.
If you see significant storm damage or flooding, or have an event cancellation to report, please provide the information in a comment to this story or contact the Coastal Point via the methods provided on this Web site. We will be monitoring the storm and its impacts throughout the day and will provide updates and photos as they become available.