BREAKING NEWS: Winter storm warning for area until 2 p.m., schools closed


Issued by the National Weather Service, Philadelphia, Pa., 5:40 a.m.:

A winter storm warning remains in effect until 2 p.m.

Additional snow will build up into our region this morning. The snow is then expected to taper to scattered snow showers for this afternoon. When the snow finally comes to an end this afternoon, there should be a total of 6 to 10 inches on the ground in the Maryland counties of Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Caroline, and in the Delaware counties of New Castle and Kent. For Sussex County, snowfall totals of 3 to 6 inches are expected.

With the heavy snowfall amounts, travel will remain difficult in the region, especially this morning. Additional snow is expected this morning.

Low pressure, located off the middle Atlantic coast during the night, will continue moving to the northeast. It should pass near Cape Cod this afternoon before moving up over maritime Canada tonight. The low will continue to bring periods of snow to our region this morning.

A gale warning for coastal waters from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island, out 20 nm, until 4 p.m., was issued by the National Weather Service, Philadelphia, Pa., 4:43 a.m. A gale warning remains in effect until 4 p.m. this afternoon.
Strong north winds with gale force gusts will continue this morning. The winds will gradually shift to northwest this afternoon and diminish slowly toward evening.

A gale warning means winds of 34 to 47 knots are imminent or occurring. Operating a vessel in gale conditions requires experience and properly equipped vessels. It is highly recommended that mariners without the proper experience seek safe harbor prior to the onset of gale conditions.

Strong winds and high seas are expected across the area today. Low pressure off the Virginia coast early this morning will move northeast today and reach the Canadian Maritimes tonight. The pressure gradient between the low and high pressure to the northwest will result in gale force winds until late this afternoon.

In Sussex County, snowfall totals have ranged from 3 to 7 inches since Sunday evening. Forecasters for the National Weather Service are predicting an additional 2 to 4 inches of snow will fall this morning before tapering off before noon today.

The storm is expected to depart the region by midday, but is forecast to leave behind gusty winds and bitterly cold temperatures in its wake. Forecasters are predicting winds today up to 25 mph, with higher gusts. That could cause blowing and drifting snow, as well as wind chill values in the teens and single-digits. Also, some minor tidal flooding is expected along the Sussex County coastline, with rough seas and some beach erosion possible.

Schools, county offices closed for the day

Due to the winter storm, most of the area’s schools – both private and public – have closed for the day, including the Indian River and Cape Henlopen school districts and Delaware Tech’s Georgetown campus. All Sussex County government offices are closed due to inclement weather. Additionally, the County Board of Adjustment meeting scheduled for this evening has been postponed and will be re-scheduled at a later date.

The Coastal Point has received no additional reports of event cancellations and closures, but they are expected to be widespread. To report a cancellation or closure, reply with a comment to this story. For a comprehensive list of closures throughout the area, visit the Web site at http://www.wboc.com/Global/category.asp?C=50888&nav=MXEi.

The storm, so far, has caused numerous problems, including minor accidents and isolated power outages. The Sussex County 911 center had received more than 50 calls for service since 6 p.m. Sunday, with most of those calls for downed power lines, disabled vehicles and minor crashes. If there is an emergency, please dial 911. For non-emergency calls, the EOC can be reached at (302) 855-7801.

The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center will continue to monitor today’s winter weather, and will post further updates should they be necessary. 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.

Drivers urged to use caution on Delaware roads

According to the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), crews were out all night Saturday and into the pre-dawn hours of Sunday clearing the roads in New Castle County. Crews were to be reporting at the area yards throughout the state and be working all night.

“Our people believe that keeping the roads clear for motorists is a sacred responsibility,” said DelDOT spokesman Jim Westhoff. “Every DelDOT employee on the road, every mechanic elbows deep in a transmission, every dispatcher juggling three telephones knows that if we do not do our job right, people can die.” Westhoff said that in a statewide snow event, DelDOT can dispatch about 500 people, 400 pieces of equipment and has a stockpile of 60,000 tons of salt available.

The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center is asking motorists to avoid travel, if possible, today because of adverse conditions. Delaware Department of Transportation crews are working to treat area roadways, focusing on primary arteries first before moving to secondary routes and back roads.

According to the Delaware State Police (DSP), “During inclement weather, when roadways become covered with ice and snow, we traditionally observe a significant rise in crashes,” said Delaware State Police Spokesman Cpl. Jeffrey Whitmarsh. “The DSP encourages all drivers to understand and recognize the changing conditions of the roadway and to adjust their driving behavior accordingly. Driver’s should reduce their speed, increase their travel distance between vehicles, increase stopping distance and allow more travel time. Analysis from these weather-related crashes clearly shows that if motorists would adhere to these simple tips the likelihood of them being involved in a crash significantly decreases,” Whitmarsh said.

The Delaware Office of Highway Safety (OHS) spokesperson Andrea Summers said drivers should be extra cautious during winter-weather events. “Given the number of fatal crashes which have already occurred since Jan. 1, 2009, we are particularly concerned about the potential for serious injury and loss of life in poor driving conditions,” Summers said.
In general, Summers said, drivers should drive slower, allow extra time for trips, and be aware of hazards like black ice and icy intersections.

In anticipation of the wintery conditions predicted for Delaware, Office of Highway Safety officials urged drivers to use caution and common sense during morning and evening commutes as well as with any travel they may have to do starting tonight and continuing through Wednesday morning.

“Given the number of fatal crashes which have already occurred since January 1st, we are particularly concerned about the potential for serious injury and loss of life in poor driving conditions,” said Summers.
• Pay extra attention when approaching intersections. Watch for cars that don’t have the right of way, because even though you are taking all necessary precautions, other drivers may not be and you need enough reaction time if they run a stop sign or stop light.
• Wear your seatbelt. If you are involved in a wreck your seatbelt will help you keep control of the vehicle and improve your chances of escaping serious injury or death by nearly 50%.
• If your vehicle starts to skid, don’t panic and don’t hit the brakes hard. Instead stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid,” will bring the back end of your car in line with the front.
For more information on safe driving tips, visit the OHS Web site at ohs.delaware.gov.
The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) said in the day or two before a storm hits is great time to prepare a Emergency Survival Kit.
“People should have enough of these items on hand, in care they need to be self-sufficient for a few days,” said Roseanne Pack, DEMA. “This storm might not be that bad, but it’s better to be prepared and not need the supplies, than to gamble and find yourself, or your family, in a critical situation.” In general, an emergency kit should include enough food, medicine, water for three days. For more information on the emergency kit, visit dema.delaware.gov.

Minimal power outages reported so far

Delmarva Power and the Delaware Electric Cooperative reported scattered outages in the county this morning, with as many as 2,500 customers between both utilities affected. Emergency officials reminded the public to never approach downed power lines, but to instead report those to authorities immediately. For more outage and emergency information, visit the Web site at http://www.delmarva.com/home/emergency.

Delaware Electric Cooperative issued the following advice during potential storm outages:
• Never touch or go near fallen wires, even if you think they are safe. Parents can use this opportunity to remind children that wires are dangerous. If you are in a vehicle that comes in contact with a downed wire, stay in your vehicle until help arrives.
• Make sure you have a working battery powered radio or TV and a good supply of fresh replacement batteries. Also, have flashlights available for all family members.
• If an electric pump supplies your water, fill spare food-grade containers with water for cooking and washing in anticipation of a possible power interruption.
• Make sure motor driven devices such as garage door openers, can be operated manually.
• Have a first aid kit available at home and check its contents to make sure it is complete and up to date. If family members with special medical needs, such as insulin or other prescription drugs, check to make sure you have an adequate supply.
• Keep the refrigerator door closed. Food will keep several hours in a closed refrigerator and up to two days in a freezer. If you must open the door, be quick!
• If you have an elderly neighbor, be a Good Samaritan and check on their status. Even a quick telephone call during a storm can provide much appreciated assurance that help is nearby if needed.
“You can never be too prepared for an outage during a winter storm,” said Rob Book, spokesman for the Delaware Electric Cooperative. “However, if you have the basic essentials prepared in an outage kit, stored in an easy to locate place, this can make all the difference should they be needed,” Book continued.

Outage kits should consist of the following items:
1. Flashlights
2. Batteries
3. First Aid Kit
4. Paper plates, cups and plastic utensils
5. Battery operated radio or TV
6. Extra blankets or sleeping bags
7. Stored water
8. Portable fire extinguisher
9. Candles and matches
10. Canned goods or easily prepared foods
11. Can opener
12. Necessary prescription drugs
13. Safety first!
Delaware Electric Cooperative consumers living in Sussex County who experience an outage should call the emergency service line at (302) 349?9009.