Last weekend’s storm may not have impacted the Delaware shore the way the Storm of 1962 rolled up the coast, but restoration and recovery are definitely an eminent part of the weather’s aftermath.
Remnants of Hurricane Ida plowed into the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware coastline as a nor’easter, causing major flooding and some wind damage in certain areas. The dunes on Fenwick Island’s beach, as well as the recently added dunes in Bethany Beach and South Bethany were breached, requiring towns and organizations to return to the drawing boards. Flooding around towns slowed traffic and closed roads. Fortunately, though, there has been minimal structural damage to the homes and businesses in the area.
Route 1 remained closed on Sunday morning under partially sunny skies as flooding from the Indian River Bay continued to swamp the southern section of roadway adjacent to the Indian River Inlet Bridge. Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) workers began cleanup of an estimated 3 feet of sand washed from the state-controlled beach just north of the bridge over the roadway due to a breach of the dune there.
Bay flooding of Route 1 in the northernmost communities of North Bethany had all but disappeared by Saturday, after having made the roadway impassible farther south of the bridge on Friday. Fred Hudson Road north of Bethany Beach remained closed on Sunday, but only the easternmost section of the road was still under water.
In Bethany Beach, water levels on Saturday had dropped by as much as a foot along Pennsylvania Avenue from their peak on Friday, reaching only to the first step of the entrance to Bethany Blues restaurant, as opposed to the top of the second step. However, extensive flooding of the 200 block of adjacent streets from Central Boulevard to Fifth Street continued. Those streets were closed at Route 1 and for portions of their 100 blocks. Canals and bays in Fenwick Island, South Bethany and Bethany Beach sustained high levels through the weekend, often topping the bulkheads, but levels have since subsided.
“The municipality of Bethany Beach has sustained no damage,” noted Bethany Beach town manager Cliff Graviet at the town’s public workshop earlier this week. “We had a chore with cleanup in terms of leaf and tree debris, but no structural damage.” Bethany Beach’s dune, a focal point of controversy this past year, sustained the most damage in town, but the devastation it prevented is immeasurable. “A quarter to a third of the dune is left,” said Graviet. “Approximately 500 feet of dune was washed away.” Council members agreed that many buildings, including homes, would have taken on damage from the rising waters, had the dune not been in place.
“DNREC is in South Bethany now,” Graviet noted at the workshop. “The last block and a half of their dune is gone. [DNREC] will be coming to us next, looking at the holes in the dunes and taking care of them with whatever sand is available.” One concern that remains in Bethany Beach are the drops and falloffs, where the dune was eroded away, 16 to 17 feet tall in some areas. “We have an issue with safety, keeping people off the beach right now,” Graviet added. “There’s the possibility of some of that sand coming down on someone, and we don’t want to have that.” Notices and barriers notify the public that the beach is currently closed. “We don’t necessarily have liability,” Graviet added, “but we have a responsibility.” In South Bethany, no structural damage was reported to the town hall.
“Much is the same [in Fenwick Island],” said Fenwick Island town manager Win Abbott. “We found no signs of serious structural or flood related damage. Our code enforcement official went around every block in town after the storm, and homeowners were notified if there was any minor damage, like shingles missing, but there was nothing significant.”
He added that no further contact with DNREC has been made in terms of rebuilding the dunes. He noted that earlier this week, the Arm Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be surveying the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware coastline to determine damage and beach restoration efforts.
In a press release sent out earlier this week, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control declared they were ready to assist property owners by expediting storm repair permit.