WEATHER ALERT: Coastal storm battering Sussex County (photos) -- IRSD schools closed Friday


Route 1 closed in both directions at IRIB

Delaware Department of Transportation officials have completely closed Route 1 at the Indian River Inlet Bridge as of 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12. The road is closed both northbound and southbound and in all lanes. No estimated time for reopening of the road has been announced.

The northbound lane of Route 1 was closed as of 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, and the right lane of Route 1 southbound on the south side of the Indian River Inlet Bridge was also closed Thursday morning due to high water.

DelDOT officials also announced Thursday that the planned open house and tour event for the Indian River Inlet Bridge construction project, rescheduled from last month to Saturday, Nov. 14, was again being postponed due to the weather.

"Coastal flooding, high tides and continual rain are creating an unsafe travel condition in this area, and with the possibility that one or more lanes of Route 1 near the bridge may be closed over the next few days, the decision was made to postpone the event to a future date, likely in early 2010," they said.

"While DelDOT and Skanska are disappointed that we cannot move forward with a public workshop at this time, but welcome anyone interested in learning about the construction progress to visit www.irib.deldot.gov for construction photographs, updates and other interesting bridge related information."

IRSD schools closed Friday

Due to inclement weather, all Indian River School District schools will be closed on Friday, Nov. 13. All 12-month employees are being asked to report at their regular time.

IRSD schools also closed one hour early on Thursday, Nov. 12. There were no after-school or evening activities, including adult education classes. Parents who reside in low-lying areas that are flooded were required to meet the school bus at a higher-elevation area to pick up their children. Otherwise, children were to be transported back to the school for pickup.

A power outage was also reported at Selbyville Middle School on Thursday morning, but power had been restored before mid-day.

Ida remnants being felt throughout the area, caution advised

The remains of former Hurricane Ida are continuing to move up the Atlantic coast late this week, acting as a nor’easter that is expected to cause continuing and persistent east and north-east winds well into Friday, which will likely result in back-bay flooding, tidal flooding of low-lying roadways, downed tree branches and significant beach erosion.

The National Weather service has reported that the impact of the storm could be the worst in Sussex County since the winter of 1998. Gov. Jack Markell declared a state of emergency in Sussex and Kent counties at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Click here to see a slideshow of flooding and storm damage as of mid-day on Thursday, Nov. 12

The National Weather Service has issued coastal flood, high wind and high surf warnings for the Delaware beaches and inland, running through Friday night at 11. p.m. Property owners are being advised to secure loose objects around their homes to avoid damage.

Those living in low-lying areas are being urged to relocate before roadways become impassable, as the event could last for two more days. Motorists are being reminded to watch out for flooded areas and to not drive through those areas. Those near the shore are being advised to stay out of the water and off the dunes and any walkways that may have been undermined.

Areas around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Bay Bridge-Tunnel are also expected to see historically high tides as a result of the storm, and officials could close the bridge if winds increase to unsafe levels.

In Millville, Whites Creek at Old Mill Road, just north of Route 26 and the Food Lion grocery store, had overflowed its banks Thursday morning and soon encroached on the roadway. About 5:30 p.m., well after a predicted 4 p.m. high tide on the bays, the creek was flowing inches deep across the southbound lane of the road and into the northbound lane as well. DelDOT workers were on-site at 5:20 p.m. and were expected to close the road.

Near Dagsboro, Vines Creek also overflowed its banks and had surrounded the foundation of an adjacent home on Thursday morning. It was expected to also flood the roadway as the bay high tide approached Thursday afternoon. Flooded yards and portions of roadways are being reported throughout the area, as are downed tree branches.

In Roxana, in front of the Pyle Center, flooding adjacent to the center's entrance led one driver to drive her car into a flooded ditch. The driver said she hadn't been able to see the edge of the driveway and ditch due to the flooding.

Surf conditions on Thursday, while noted for above-normal wave heights at 5-7 feet, are being reported as poor throughout the area. Swimming and other activities in and near the bay and ocean waters are being discouraged, due to safety concerns.

Bethany Beach officials on Thursday issued an emergency alert via the town’s Web site. They said, “As is always the case with this type of storm, residents adjacent to the Loop Canal and Salt Pond should closely monitor the situation and be aware of rising water, particularly during high tides. Those residents should also be aware that back-bay high tides are later than predicted coastal high tides.

Predicted "Coastal" high tides for Bethany Beach through Sunday are as follows:

Thursday - 4:11 p.m.
Friday - 4:46 a.m. and 5:04 p.m.
Saturday - 5:36 a.m. and 5:52 p.m.
Sunday - 6:21 a.m. and 6:37 p.m.

Flooding may worsen as high tides are reached, but high-tide levels are expected to linger until winds are no longer continuing to push water into the bays.

Motorists should be aware of road and street closures as well as falling limbs, trees and other debris that may be on the roadway, Bethany officials advised.

Questions and concerns about the storm’s impact in Bethany may be directed to the Bethany Beach Police Department at (302) 539-1000.

Forecast: 5 to 7 inches of rain, 55 mph winds possible through Saturday

Sussex County officials on Thursday said the storm promises to lash Sussex County over the next two days with heavy rains, rough surf, significant beach erosion and moderate to severe flooding in low-lying areas.

The National Weather Service in Mt. Holly, N.J., issued a high wind warning until 6 p.m. Friday and a coastal flood warning until 11 p.m. Friday for the immediate Sussex County coastline. A wind advisory is posted for inland areas until 11 p.m. Friday. Strong, persistent northeasterly winds gusting as high as 55 mph, along with moderate to severe flooding in low-lying areas near the Inland Bays, Delaware Bay and Nanticoke River are expected.

Forecasts call for tides to run approximately 2 to 4 feet above normal over the next several tide cycles. High tide at the Breakwater Harbor in Lewes will be at 4:56 p.m. Thursday, 5:32 a.m. Friday, and 5:51 p.m. Friday; at Indian River Inlet, high tide will occur at 4:39 p.m. Thursday, 5:13 a.m. Friday, and 5:31 p.m. Friday. Along the Nanticoke River, at nearby Sharptown, Md., high tide will occur at 1:35 p.m. Thursday, 1:51 a.m. Friday, and 2:31 p.m. Friday.

Additionally, forecasters are predicting the storm will drop as much as 5 inches of new rainfall, on top of the approximately 2 inches that have already fallen.

The staff at the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center in Georgetown is monitoring the storm and the latest forecasts, and officials urged the public to be mindful of changing conditions and prepared to take action, if necessary

“This could become a very serious situation, especially if the public is not paying attention and not taking the appropriate safeguards to protect themselves,” EOC Director Joseph Thomas said. “This system is going to knock us around for quite a while, and it’s the duration that has us concerned about coastal flooding, especially in communities like Oak Orchard and around the Inland Bays.

“We could be looking at flooding lasting through the next three to five high tides,” Thomas said. “On top of that, heavy rains could cause road flooding, and high winds could topple trees and cause power outages. This storm has the potential to cause a multitude of problems and inflict significant damage.”

As of mid-day Thursday, the storm’s greatest effect has been significant beach erosion, Thomas said.

“We received a report this morning that water was still up to the dune lines at Rehoboth Beach, five hours after the morning high tide,” he said. As for other effects, Thomas said there had been no road closures as of mid-day and only a handful of scattered power outages, including at least one in the Ocean View area, as well as the outage at Selbyville Middle School. Power was restored relatively quickly in both of those cases.

As of 6 p.m. on Thursday, Delaware Electric Cooperative was reporting three minor outages in the area, near Dagsboro, Selbyville and Frankford, with crews on-site at two of the locations. Delmarva power was reporting 3,663 customers – about 5 percent of its customers – without power in Sussex County, with outages focused in the Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Ocean View, Millville, Millsboro, Selbyville and Rehoboth Beach areas.

Thomas said he expected the lack of road closures and minimal power outages to change as the storm lingers throughout the day and into Friday.

No evacuations were officially ordered as of mid-day on Thursday, but emergency officials encouraged those in low-lying areas to relocate to higher ground before roadways become impassible. Thomas said emergency planners can activate sheltering if conditions warrant.

Thomas encouraged the public to avoid traveling, if possible, but noted that if driving is necessary, motorists should never drive through flooded roadways and should never approach downed power lines. Instead, residents should immediately report flooded roadways and downed power lines to the proper authorities.

For a list of road closures, 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 is also again requesting 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.

County officials urge those in low-lying areas to relocate

Sussex County emergency officials are strongly encouraging residents in low-lying, flood-prone areas to prepare now to move to higher ground as a major coastal storm could cause severe tidal flooding over the next two days.

No evacuation order has been issued, and conditions at this time do not warrant such action, Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph L. Thomas said. County emergency planners, however, are recommending that residents in flood-prone areas seriously consider moving elsewhere – with friends or relatives – now before conditions deteriorate later tonight and early Friday morning.

National Weather Service forecasts call for high tides tonight and Friday to run as much as 4 feet above normal, with up to 4 inches of rain and winds as high as 55 mph in addition to that. Forecasters expect the worst conditions to occur during the overnight and early morning high-tide cycle, between 4:30 and 7:30 a.m. Friday.

“If you’re in an area that typically has these problems, now is probably the time to consider your options,” County Administrator David B. Baker said. “If you can safely move to higher, drier ground, it would be advisable to do that now rather than wait until overnight when higher floodwaters could make that impossible.”

Residents in low-lying tidal areas – particularly along Sussex County’s Inland Bays, Delaware Bay and possibly along the Nanticoke River – should expect moderate to severe tidal flooding during the next 24 to 36 hours. Residents and property owners should ensure submersible pumps are working, storm drains are clear of debris and automobiles are moved from flood-prone locations.

Those who are considering vacating their properties, and who need assistance in temporarily relocating, should contact the EOC immediately at (302) 855-7801.

Here are some helpful tips for all residents to keep in mind:
Be prepared to evacuate. Emergency managers will notify the public, via the media and automated telephone alerts, of an evacuation order, what areas area affected and when residents should leave. In the event you evacuate, take with you a storm kit, which should include:
o Bottled water;
o Non-perishable food;
o A manual can opener;
o Clothing;
o Blankets;
o Prescription medications;
o Personal hygiene products;
o A flashlight;
o A portable radio;
o Batteries;
o Cash;
o Special needs items (diapers, formula, etc.).
Also:
o Take valuable and/or important papers with you;
o Secure your house by locking the windows and doors. Turn off all utilities (gas, water, electric, etc.);
o Notify a family member or someone close to you of your destination if you relocate.

With this storm, there is the possibility of downed trees and fallen power lines throughout the county, Thomas said. Residents, visitors and property owners should be cautious, and should never approach downed power lines. If there are downed power lines, members of the public should contact the proper authorities. As always, call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Sussex County is bringing in additional staff to its EOC later this evening. Meantime, Sussex County Emergency Medical Services will activate a mobile paramedic unit in the Bethany Beach area this evening to ensure advance life support care is available on both sides of the Indian River Inlet, regardless of whether Del. Route 1 is affected by flooding.

For a complete list of current road closures, 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, 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.

To report significant damage, flooded roads, power outages and other storm-related problems to the Coastal Point, post a comment on this story, or call or e-mail the Coastal Point via our contact information on this site.