As Tropical Storm Isaias approaches Delaware on Tuesday, Aug. 4, residents are urged to prepare for dangerous winds over 55 miles per hour and up to 6 inches of rain. Storm surges, localized flooding, tree damage, power outages, and other threats to life and property are possible, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Rain is expected Monday evening, with the brunt of the storm arriving early on Tuesday.
This could be Sussex County’s most significant brush with tropical weather for the 2020 season yet, as a would-be hurricane churning off the Atlantic coast has its eye — wrapped in gusty winds and torrential rains — set on the mid-Atlantic region and beyond.
Officials from the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) and other agencies are monitoring the potential for heavy rain, wind gusts and flash flooding throughout the day Tuesday.
At this time, no evacuations have been ordered, and no shelters have been designated. However, the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center, which is monitoring the latest forecasts, is cautioning those in vulnerable areas to be ready and to consider relocating to higher ground, if necessary.
“This is not one of the stronger storms we’ve encountered, and thankfully it looks to be one that will move quickly. But it could be a rough 12 hours or so on Tuesday, with a lot of wind and rain, and people need to be prepared for the possibility of power outages, downed trees and utility poles, and minor street and tidal flooding,” Sussex County EOC Director Joseph L. Thomas said. “We are in the height of the summer tourist season, and many of our visitors may not be accustomed to these types of events. But we live in a coastal community, with many low-lying areas, so we would encourage everyone, especially our visitors, to be aware of their surroundings, monitor the forecasts, make the necessary preparations, and be ready to take action should conditions warrant.
Forecasting the storm
Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center predict Tropical Storm Isaias, with sustained winds of 70 mph as of 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 3, could strengthen ever-so-slightly to hurricane status before coming ashore in the Carolinas late Monday night. Then, the storm is expected to ride along a frontal boundary stretching across much of the East Coast, spreading gusty winds, heavy rains and rough surf along its path – including Sussex County.
The National Weather Service has issued a tropical storm warning for all of Sussex County until further notice. The storm’s projected track takes the center of circulation over or near the Delmarva Peninsula, with it rapidly moving northeast toward New England and the Canadian Maritimes by Wednesday. That quick exit should minimize the amount of time winds and rain can affect the region. But forecasters expect sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph, with gusts to 70 mph, and as much as 2 to 6 inches of rain across parts of Sussex County, mostly during the daytime hours Tuesday. The storm’s effects should begin to lessen by Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.
Areas that historically flood could see minor flooding with tides as much as 2 feet above normal on Tuesday, including Long Neck, Broadkill Beach and Primehook. The Sussex County EOC encourages residents and visitors in these areas to be mindful of the forecast and monitor conditions as they change.
Battening down the hatches, filing the paperwork
“As models continue to show Delaware in the path of this storm, home and business owners should take steps to reduce property damage and stay safe,” said Delaware Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro.
“Secure any outdoor items or furniture that could cause damage when windy conditions occur, charge your cellphones, gather emergency supplies and make a plan about where you can take shelter away from windows at the peak of the storm. Keep in mind that roads may become difficult to navigate due to debris and tree damage, and never drive through a flooded area.”
At home, potential storm impacts include damage to porches, carports and other awnings, as well as roofing and siding, with more significant impacts on mobile homes. NWS expects uprooted or snapped trees in addition to flooding, causing impassable roadways and power outages in some places. Storm surges are likely, and tornadoes are possible.
Motorists should not attempt to drive through flooded roads and be alert for downed trees, wires and other obstructions on the road as result of the wind and rain. Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and its contractors will be securing equipment and materials on construction sites today, however, motorists should be cautious and aware in those areas for objects that can be blown into the roadway. Hazards can be reported to the Transportation Management Center by calling #77 when safely able to do so, which is answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
DelDOT will provide updates on social media and WTMC 1380AM. Motorists should drive with headlights on (particularly when windshield wipers are in use) and to slow down and allow more travel time during any rain event.
Additionally, DelDOT urges residents who live in areas prone to flooding to take precautions for possible evacuation and review evacuation routes which are available on DelDOT's website (https://deldot.gov/information/projects/tmt/evac_map.shtml).
In advance of storms, residents are urged to locate important documents, including homeowners and auto insurance policies and company contact information, as well as a complete a home inventory (https://insurance.delaware.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2018/09/Home-Inventory-Form-2018.pdf). If your property is damaged by Tropical Storm Isaias, contact your insurer before you clean up or make repairs, and photograph all damage. After speaking with your insurer and photographing damage, take action to prevent further damage by covering broken windows, damaged walls, or leaking roofs, but do not make permanent repairs. Your insurance company should inspect the property and estimate the cost of permanent repairs. Save all receipts and documentation, including those related to temporary repairs.
Hurricane season lasts well into the fall, and residents should make plans and take precautions now to reduce future risks, including exploring flood insurance. More than 20 percent of flood insurance claims are for properties outside of high-risk areas. Flood insurance policies typically take 30 days to go into effect. For more information about FEMA’s flood insurance program and to find an agent in your area, visit FloodSmart.gov or call 1-800-427-4661.
For more information on how to prepare a home for inclement weather, visit the Department of Insurance Disaster Preparedness page (https://insurance.delaware.gov/disaster-preparedness).
For the latest weather forecasts and emergency preparedness tips, visit preparede.org and view the DEMA Emergency Preparedness Checklist (https://dema.delaware.gov/emergencyPrep/naturalDisaster/index.shtml).
For updates, stay tuned to local news agencies; the Sussex County website at www.sussexcountyde.gov; the National Weather Service (www.weather.gov/phi); and the National Hurricane Center (noaawww.nhc.noaa.gov); the Sussex EOC (www.facebook.com/SussexCountyEOC); or Sussex EMS (www.twitter.com/SussexCoDE_EMS).