WEATHER ALERT [UPDATED]: Offices, schools closed, events canceled

[UPDATE] Due to inclement weather, all Indian River School District schools will be closed on Friday, Feb. 12. All 12-month employees will be informed of their status at a later time, officials said.

Winds continued to remain gusty early Thursday morning in the wake of Wednesday's blizzard. These winds combined with Wednesday’s snowfall may cause localized areas of blowing snow and some reduced visibilities early today. If you will be traveling, beware of reduced visibilities at times and watch out for accumulated snow on roadways. Officials advised that, per state police, drivers can be charged for creating a hazard by not clearing snow off hoods and roofs of vehicles. It is a fine-able offense. Additionally, according to state police, vehicle windows must be cleared of snow and ice, as to not obstruct the driver's view. Failure to do so is also subject to a fine.

• Emergency officials are asking the public – especially those living in municipalities and subdivisions – to shovel out hydrants for local firefighters. Heavy snowfall accumulations along with mountains of snow and ice plowed off streets have blocked many hydrants, which are critical for firefighters in an emergency, county officials said.

• Unconfirmed reports of damage to buildings due to accumulated snow have also filtered in to the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA). Fewer than 10 had been reported as of Wednesday afternoon.

• Due to hazardous road conditions, all DART transit services will not operate Thursday, Feb. 11. DART plans operating service on Friday, Feb. 12.

• A public information meeting to discuss the proposed shutdown of Unit 3 at NRG's Indian River Power Plant scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 11, has been postponed by DNREC. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the Millsboro Fire Company Banquet Hall. DNREC will provide an overview of a proposal to shut the coal-fired unit and will receive public feedback about the proposal. For more information contact Melinda Carl or Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, at (302) 739-9902.

• Due to inclement weather, all Indian River School District schools will be closed on Thursday, Feb. 11, and Friday, Feb. 12. All 12-month employees will be informed of their status at a later time, officials said. School is scheduled to resume on Tuesday, Feb. 16, after the Presidents' Day holiday.

• Beebe Medical Center’s satellite facilities are getting back to normal – with some exceptions. The Beebe Health Campus on Route 24 in Rehoboth Beach will be up and running Friday.
Due to so many cancellations because of the storm, the hours for both Beebe Lab Express and Beebe Imaging at this campus will be extended on Friday and Saturday: Hours will be from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12 and Saturday, Feb. 13; Walk-in appointments will be taken for lab tests and X-rays. Please telephone 645-FAST to make appointments for CT, MRI, Ultrasound and Mammography.

The following Beebe satellite facilities will remain closed on Friday: Gull House, High School Wellness Centers at Cape Henlopen, Indian River and Sussex Central; Rehab Services at Millsboro; Beebe Imaging at Georgetown and Millville; and Beebe Lab Express locations at Millville, Milton, Georgetown, Long Neck and Millsboro.

Also closed or canceled:
• Disney on Ice “Finding Nemo” – Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, Salisbury – Thursday and Friday morning shows canceled
• Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company – awards banquet postponed until March 6

• Delmarva Christian High School is rescheduling the open house that was originally scheduled for this Thursday to Thursday, Feb. 18, from 4 to 7 p.m.

• The performance of “Love Letters” scheduled for Feb. 13 at the Milton Theatre has been postponed. A new date for the performance will be announced.

• The Milton Theatre has also canceled this week's movie showings, due to the weather.

• The Winter Gala will rock on as scheduled at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Baycenter in Dewey Beach. The event will feature five bars, food and live music from John Eddie, Jelly Roll, and Jimi Smooth. This annual event is a fundraiser for the Dewey Beach Police and Lifeguards. Lighthouse and Baycenter owner  Jim Baeurle said, "This is Dewey Beach's best party of the year. The harsh weather conditions this week will only make this year's event even better!" Tickets are available at the door for $85 per person. Call (302) 226-1680 for inquiries.

If you are aware of additional closures and cancelations, please post them as comments on this story.

• Delawareans can obtain many answers to questions related to the storm and the State of Emergency by calling the Delaware Helpline at 1-800-464-4357.

Owners, residents of buildings with flat roofs urged to be aware of snow-load dangers

Faced with unprecedented snow loads on flat roofs around the state and initial reports of some roof collapses already, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency is recommending that building owners and residents of those buildings be aware of the weight loads that these back-to-back storms may be creating. Only qualified individuals should be sent to inspect roofs, and all appropriate safety measure must be followed, they said.

Property owners or residents should take the following into consideration:
1. Monitor the weather and condition of the roof.
2. Inspect roofs for leaks or structural deficiencies that may develop during the storm.
3. Clear leaves, snow, ice, silt, or other debris from gutters, drains, downspouts and scuppers.
• After a storm:
1. Have a professional licensed contractor remove all snow immediately from every roof surface, including roof overhangs and covered porches.
2. Remove snow from side walls to prevent high snow mounds from pushing them in.
3. Temporarily shore up and brace dipping or sagging roofs or walls.
4. Verify that drains are clear of ice and snow to allow melting and runoff. If the roof is pitched and does not have drains, open paths to the eaves to ensure drainage and prevent ponding.
5. Avoid ice dams by keeping the attic well ventilated so snow doesn't melt and refreeze at the roof's edge. Also make certain the attic floor is well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising from the house into the attic.
Here are several other points to consider:
• Improper operation of doors or windows, deflection of ceiling finishes or exposed beams, roof leaks or sprinkler heads moved from their normal positions all could be signs of roof failure.
• Barns and other agricultural out-buildings can present a safety hazard. Be especially careful when entering those buildings and make prudent decisions about housing animals in those structures.
• Contact a structural engineer, building inspector or other qualified individual if you are concerned about the structural integrity of a building. Consider evacuating or moving out of the building if appropriate.
• Because of the anticipated cold temperatures, this threat will remain in place for a considerable time after the snow fall ends.

Property owners should contact their insurance companies for more information.

Propane company: Dig out your tank and mailbox

Peninsula Oil & Propane is reminding customers to keep a clear path and to dig out oil and propane tanks during this record-breaking snowy winter. Removing snow from mailboxes allows drivers to see addresses for quicker delivery, they said.

Safe removal of snow will allow Peninsula Oil & Propane’s trucks an opportunity to fill tanks across Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland & Virginia – thus keeping families snug and warm.

Below are safety tips from the American Physical Therapy Association to utilize while shoveling show:
• Lift small loads of snow, bend with your knees and lift with your legs rather than with your back.
• Use a shovel with a handle that allows your back to be straight while lifting. A short handle will cause you to bend more to lift the load. A long one makes the load heavier.
• Avoid twisting as much as possible. The spine does not tolerate twisting as well as it can other movements.
• Step in the direction that you're throwing snow to prevent low back twisting. This will help avoid the “next-day back fatigue."
• Take breaks.
• Stand up straight and walk around every so often. Standing and doing a backbend will help reverse all the forward bending that occurs while shoveling. To do this, stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips and bend backward slightly for a few seconds.