BREAKING NEWS: State braces for major snow storm; driving precautions urged statewide
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning that is in effect from 7 A.M. Sunday, Dec. 26, until 1 P.M. Monday, Dec. 27. There will be heavy, blowing snow throughout Sunday afternoon and evening, and there is the potential for accumulation of 8 to 12 inches statewide.
State officials are urging the public to do any necessary driving before the snow starts tomorrow. Once the snow starts, and especially in the afternoon and evening period, travel is being strongly discouraged. Visibility will be limited and, coupled with snow accumulation, roads could be treacherous.
As the winter storm moved in, crews from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) were planning to hit the roads, statewide around dawn Sunday, or sooner, depending on the evolving weather conditions. Supervisors and skeleton crews were expected to work throughout the night, in case circumstances changed, or if trouble spots emerged.
According to Jim Westhoff, a DelDOT spokesman, the department has been monitoring the progress of this storm for several days and will do everything possible to make the roads safe as soon as they can. He cautioned drivers that the weather will make driving dangerous and people should avoid driving Sunday unless it is absolutely necessary.
"We anticipate DelDOT's plowing operations will be in full gear, fully staffed, all day Sunday, and will remain so until the roads are deemed safe," Westhoff said late Saturday.
Since travel will be difficult during the storm, everyone should enact their household emergency plan and check water and food supplies and flashlights and battery- or crank-powered radios, he advised. Those who need household supplies should obtain them early Sunday morning.
Strong winds gusting up to 35 and 40 mph are predicted and can result in near-blizzard conditions, including white-outs and possibly causing damage to power lines. These conditions are expected to be worse from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. Sunday. High winds also effect driving conditions that will already be hazardous. Along the coast, gusts may be as high as 50 mph.
Temperatures will be in the 20s, but wind chill factor will be 10 to 15 degrees. Those who go out should keep skin covered. Pets must be kept indoors or otherwise adequately sheltered.
Snow and winds are expected to taper off after midnight, Sunday night, but light snow might continue into Monday morning.
All hands on deck for DelDOT
The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) was fully mobilized Sunday morning, preparing for a potentially long day and night of plowing into Monday morning. Throughout the state, plow operators, mechanics, dispatchers and administrators are on the job.
Crews have been pre-treating with salt before the snow began.
As of 9 a.m., DelDOT crews were focusing their efforts on primary and multi-laned roads. Road temperatures in Delaware are below freezing, which means snow will likely accumulate on some of the minor roadways.
Weather forecasts also call for high winds later today, creating the possibility of drifting snow as well as reduced visibility.
"We hope that most people heard news about this storm and did their travelling yesterday," said Westhoff. "Staying off the roads as much as possible today will make it easier for DelDOT's crews to clear the roads, and lessen the possibility of traffic mishaps."
For detailed traffic information, consult the interactive traffic map on www.Deldot.gov that is continuously updated by the state's Traffic Management Center.
Delaware Emergency Management Agency is coordinating communications among local emergency management offices and all relevant state officials and organizations. The public is urged to monitor all weather and driving conditions and act accordingly to be safe and to protect property. For tips on emergency planning, see www.dema.delaware.gov, www.delawarecitizencorps.org and www.ready.gov.