BREAKING NEWS: Tropical storm leaves minimal impact on Delaware coast


Update, Sept. 6, 7:14 p.m. -- With Tropical Storm Hanna clear of the Delmarva Peninsula as late afternoon and evening arrived on Saturday, residents and visitors alike turned out by the dozens to check out the storm-tossed waves of the Atlantic and see what, if any, damage had been left in the storm's wake. By and large, the answer to that question was none -- a puddle here, a pile of pinecones and twigs there, and mild to moderate erosion to the front sections of the area's reconstructed beaches.

Residents on Saturday compared the storm and its damage to that of the May 12 nor'easter that left significant damage and major erosion in its wake, saying the May nor'easter, despite not being a full-fledged tropical system, had been much more severe. Still, surfers turned out to take on the pounding 5- to 8-foot waves off Bethany Beach, under the watchful and sometimes dubious eyes of onlookers who crossed to the top of the new -- and rebuilt post-May 12 -- dune to see how much Hanna had whipped up the sea.

Not even the town's infamous flooding problems along Pennsylvania Avenue compared to the May storm, with only large puddles resulting from a system that fell well short of predictions of 4 to 6 inches of rain. Voting in town council elections took place as planned, though the annual Boardwalk Art Festival was canceled due to the storm.

Pick up the Sept. 12 issue of the Coastal Point for more information on the impact of Tropical Storm Hanna.

Update: Sept. 6: 5:30 p.m. -- Sussex County escapes major storm effects

Tropical Storm Hanna spared Sussex County from any major damage as it moved up the East Coast, at worst knocking down trees limbs and disrupting power to a few thousand customers in pockets of the county, emergency officials said Saturday evening.

The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center continued to monitor the storm, which was expected to directly pass over Sussex County by 6:30 p.m. Periods of heavy rain and some gusty winds still are possible into this evening, but the worst of the storm appears to have already occurred or remained to the north and west.

“We have been very fortunate today, and we’ve fared better than what the forecast called for 24 hours ago,” EOC Director Joseph L. Thomas said. “We have not had any reports of serious damage or flooding, nothing more than some sporadic tree limbs down and power outages. And I think once these last bands of rain move out and the center passes over, conditions should really begin to improve.”

Damage has been limited because wind speeds and rainfall have not been as severe as had been anticipated, Thomas said. The highest wind gust was approximately 40 mph, recorded in the coastal area earlier today. Meantime, rainfall has been limited to less than 2 inches – well short of the 4 to 6 inches originally predicted.

Crews from Delmarva Power and the Delaware Electric Cooperative have worked throughout the day to restore service to the estimated 3,000 customers who have lost power in the county. Only a few hundred customers remained without service at 5:30 p.m.

While the weather forecast for Sunday calls for clear skies and warm temperatures, officials noted that rip currents are expected to remain strong along Delaware’s coast. Swimming is not advised, they said. Surf conditions will be rough and many area beach patrols either have limited staffs or have ended coverage for the season.

The Sussex County EOC encouraged residents and visitors to continue monitoring the storm this evening as it moves to the northeast. For updates, stay tuned to local television and radio stations, and the Sussex County EOC Web site, at www.sussexcountyde.gov/services/storm. The public should also monitor the National Weather Service, at www.nws.noaa.gov/er/phi, for the latest forecast.

County residents and visitors are being urged to call 911 only in emergencies. Those with storm-related calls – to report downed trees or power lines, flooding or power outages – can call the EOC’s non-emergency telephone line at (302) 856-6306.

Update: Sept. 6, 4:54 a.m. -- Tropical Storm Hanna continued its trek into the eastern United States on Friday, Sept. 5, and was forecast to pass directly over Sussex County, Del., within the next 24 hours, spreading heavy rains and strong winds along its path.

The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center is monitor the movement of Tropical Storm Hanna, which came ashore along the South Carolina/North Carolina border early Saturday morning. Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center expect the storm to travel up into the Chesapeake Bay region on Saturday.

Rainfall amounts of 4 to 6 inches, with sustained winds of 40 mph to 50 mph, are likely in Sussex County, county emergency officials said, with the heaviest weather expected during the afternoon and evening hours. Gusts to 60 mph are possible, particularly in coastal areas.

The combination of heavy rains and strong winds could cause flooding in poorly drained areas, topple trees and disrupt power throughout parts of the county, they warned.

“Sussex County is going to see wind, we’re going to have rain, and we’re going to have power outages,” EOC Director Joseph L. Thomas said. “We’re going to have some problems, but fortunately the storm is not forecast to strengthen significantly, and it should move through the region very quickly. We believe that will lessen the effects and keep damage to a minimum.”

A tropical storm warning and a flood watch are in effect for Sussex County through Saturday. Minor tidal flooding, some beach erosion and strong rip currents are likely during the event. Forecasts are calling for tides to run approximately 1 to 2 feet above normal.

The first effects of the storm began Friday evening, with rain increasing during the overnight hours. Rain and winds were expected to become heavier Saturday morning, and last into the evening. The storm should begin to clear the region late Saturday, with conditions improving Sunday, officials said.

With this storm, there is the possibility of flying debris, 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, he advised. If there are downed power lines, the public should contact the proper authorities.

Sussex County urged residents and property owners to prepare now by securing loose objects, such as lawn chairs and trash cans, to prevent storm winds from turning those items into potential projectiles. Also, residents in low-lying tidal areas should make sure submersible pumps are working and check storm drains to ensure they are clear of debris.

Sussex County is encouraging visitors to the area, especially those who are camping, to closely monitor the weather and be prepared to take appropriate action. Additionally, swimming is not advised this weekend, as surf conditions will be rough and many area beach patrols either have limited staffs or have ended coverage for the season.

Travel throughout the day Saturday is not advised.

For updates, stay tuned to local television and radio stations, and the Sussex County EOC Web site, at www.sussexcountyde.gov/services/storm. The public should also monitor the National Weather Service, at www.nws.noaa.gov/er/phi. Updates on the storm and its impact in the area will be posted on the Coastal Point Web site throughout Saturday and beyond.

The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center continues to monitor the storm’s progress, and will remain in contact with the National Weather Service, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency and local officials. Extra staff and dispatchers for the county 911 center are on standby, and will be brought in early Saturday morning.

County residents and visitors are being urged to call 911 only in emergencies. Those with storm-related calls – to report downed trees or power lines, flooding or power outages – can call the EOC’s non-emergency telephone line at (302) 856-6306.

Art festival canceled due to storm

Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce officials on Friday morning announced the cancellation of Saturday's annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Art Show in light of the oncoming storm, citing concerns about wind, rain and potential overwash of the ocean up to the boardwalk.

Bethany elections going on as scheduled

In the Town of Bethany Beach, officials confirmed Friday that scheduled voting in town council elections on Saturday would take place as planned, between noon and 6 p.m. at the town hall, regardless of the weather. however they noted that the town trolley will be running throughout the day and should any voter have special transportation needs because of inclement weather, they can call (302) 539-1000 (the Bethany Beach Police Department) and the Town will arrange for their transportation.

Electricity supplier urges hurricane preparedness, safety

As Tropical Storm Hannah traveled closer to Delaware on Saturday, Delaware Electric Cooperative continued preparation for the potential extreme weather that the storm was expected to bring and is offering safety tips for its member-owners.
During storm situations, Delaware Electric Cooperative maintains regular contact with emergency operations representatives from Kent County, Sussex County and the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA).

“They are the experts when it comes to emergency preparedness and these organizations are topnotch,” said DEC’s Rob Book. “We just want people to be prepared when dealing with a storm or disaster that could cause extensive electric loss.”
In the event of storm-related damage, Book said:

• Do not approach service vehicles while they are in the process of repairing any electric equipment.

• Do not attempt to move any broken poles or downed lines since there could be energized lines nearby.

• Do not touch any damaged metering equipment.

• Do not attempt to remove downed brush or trees away from lines, poles or transformers.

• If you are in a car and a line is touching it, stay in the vehicle and wait for help.

Also, consumers were reminded that if they decide to use a generator during a power outage to isolate it from the DEC system. Do not connect a generator to household wiring unless protective equipment (a double throw switch) has been installed. On a distribution line, a transformer functions to step down electric voltage to a consumer’s household. However, this process can be reversed. Crews working on the system would be put in danger if high voltage is carried back through the line.

Delaware Electric Cooperative consumers living in Sussex County who experience an outage should call the emergency service line at 349-9009.

Delaware Electric Cooperative is a member-owned electric utility serving 73,000 consumers in Kent and Sussex counties. For more information visit the Web site at www.delaware.coop.