An unnamed storm that lashed the area with high winds and heavy rain late last week caused significant beach erosion and flooding along the Delaware coast and inland bays. The late-September storm, despite falling during hurricane season and exhibiting counterclockwise rotation, was not classified as a tropical system but as simply a low-pressure system and therefore was not named.
Nonetheless, the storm left its impact along the shore, as Bethany Beach officials closed the town’s beach at the top of the dune, blocking crossovers with “Keep Out” signs to prevent would-be beach-goers from running afoul of two storm-related dangers: an eroded dune front similar to that sustained in the May 12 nor’easter and munitions washed up on the beach by the storm. Munitions were spotted along the coast over the weekend, from Bethany Beach south to Fenwick Island.
“While this is hurricane season, this is not a tropical system, but more like the nor’easters common here during the winter months,” Sussex County Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph L. Thomas noted Sept. 24, in advance of the storm. “Nevertheless, many of the effects could be the same – beach erosion, tidal flooding and power outages are all possibilities in the next few days.”
Residents in low-lying tidal areas – particularly along Sussex County’s Inland Bays – were advised to ensure that submersible pumps were working, storm drains were clear of debris and automobiles were moved from flood-prone locations.
The impact of that warning in Bethany Beach was unclear over the weekend, as flood-prone Pennsylvania Avenue once again turned into a tidal lake that some motorists still continued to cross.
Surfers likewise ignored warnings that ocean swimming was not being advised since surf conditions were extremely rough and many beach patrols had ended coverage for the season. Surfers instead took advantage of wave heights in excess of 6 feet, and at least one flipper-equipped swimmer headed into the churning waters off Bethany Beach on Sunday morning.
Inland, those residing along bays and creeks continued to see heavy flooding through the weekend, with tide levels well above normal. Coastal flood advisories had already been common in the area in recent weeks, with the storm adding further height to those peaks. One Dagsboro-area resident reported having a personal watercraft float away from the top of the dock upon which the craft had been elevated for safety.
Public reminded not to touch munitions
Public safety officials reminded those who may come upon munitions on area beaches to leave them where they are – do not touch them – and call 911. When calling in, the reporting person should be as specific as possible as to the location and the description of the object(s), they said.
Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit members this weekend noted that several citizens who had located military ordnance had actually handled the objects in an attempt to move them to a “safe location.”
“This act, although done with the best intentions, put the citizens in danger,” officials said. “The EOD members who were called in to secure these items have an extensive amount of training and possess the proper equipment to perform their duties safely.”
For more on the storm and its impact in the area, pick up the Oct. 3 issue of the Coastal Point or return to coastalpoint.com on or after Oct. 2.