WEATHER ALERT: Power outages persist as area prepares for more snow and wind
State officials were reporting nearly 14,000 electric customers still without power – mostly in Sussex County – on Monday morning, as crews from Delmarva Power and Delaware Electric Cooperative struggled to reach and repair outages from last weekend’s blizzard. Shelters in both counties remained open for those needing shelter due to a lack of power or heat.
As of 5:30 a.m., 13,773 customers were without power – just 964 in Kent County, but 12,809 in Sussex County, about evenly divided between Delmarva Power and DEC customers. Officials said crews had worked through the night to bring those numbers down from as many as 39,000 without power during the peak of the storm’s impact.
As of 9 a.m. Monday, DEC representatives said 1,187 members in the area of Indian River High School were without power due to one major circuit that remained without power. Delaware Electric Cooperative had more than 40 crews, consisting of more than 1,200 line workers dispatched to all areas of Sussex and Kent counties on Monday morning, and more were on the way. Working along with DEC crews are crews from North Carolina, Connecticut, Virginia and Maryland.
Officials noted that some roads remained impassable and DEC was working with DelDOT, contract plows and local area farmers to open roads where restoration is necessary. To report any outages, downed wires, trees on lines or any other issues, DEC customers should call the emergency service line at (302) 349-9009 in Sussex County.
For those who determine that they need emergency shelter, there are three shelters still open in Kent and Sussex counties. As of Monday morning, 64 people were sheltering at Milford Middle School, 31 at Sussex Central High School and six at Cape Henlopen High School. The American Red Cross shelter at Dover High School closed out Sunday afternoon. A few in need of shelter who remained there at that time were transported to Milford Middle School.
Those who need transportation to a shelter in Sussex County should contact the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center at (302) 856-7366.
“We understand the concern that our members have with restoring their power as quickly and safely as possible, and we thank them for their continued understanding,” DEC representatives said. “Rest assured that our line crews and all DEC associates and all of our contract workers will remain working around the clock until power is restored to every last member.”
State of Emergency continues, state offices closed in Sussex and Kent counties
Because of continuing power outages and hazardous winter driving conditions on many secondary and back roads, the State of Emergency imposed on Friday, Feb. 5, remained in effect for Kent and Sussex counties on Monday morning. State workers who live or work in Kent and Sussex counties were not to report to work on Monday, Feb. 8, except for essential employees. County offices in Kent and Sussex counties were also closed Monday.
Road conditions and the status of power restoration were to be reviewed Monday to determine whether the State of Emergency should be maintained or lifted for Kent and Sussex counties.
According to Gene Donaldson, manager of the Transportation Management Center of Delaware Dept. of Transportation, significant progress had been made as of Sunday night in New Castle County on primary and secondary roads and many back roads. However, clearing debris and plowing of many secondary and back roads in Kent and Sussex counties remained to be completed.
“There are still problems on those secondary and minor roads,” Donaldson said Sunday. “We are working on all of them, including these rural issues, but we are looking at two days more work.”
He said DelDOT continued to support power restoration efforts of Delmarva Power and the Delaware Electric Cooperative by assigning equipment to areas where utility crews must respond.
Donaldson said DART buses, including paratransit buses, would resume full operation Monday.
Officials there said the Town of Fenwick Island was continuing its snow plowing operations as time and staff permit, and thanked residents for being patient.
More heavy snow, strong wind predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday
As state and local workers attempt to repair and clean up from last weekend’s blizzard, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch in effect afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 9, through evening of Wednesday, Feb. 10.
By Wednesday afternoon, the nor’easter is forecast to be intensifying strongly southeast of Delmarva area and potentially could bring heavy snow to much of area through Wednesday. It may start out mixed precipitation in southern Delaware but is expected to change to snow. Northern parts of Delaware could be affected by this second storm system more than the south, officials said.
Cancellations due to the anticipated nor'easter began on Monday.
The Ocean View Town Council workshop scheduled for 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9, and the Ocean View Town Council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9, have been canceled. The workshop will now be held at 5 p.m. on Feb. 16, and the town council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16. They will be held in the Town Hall at 32 West Avenue.
The public hearing on the Ocean View Budget and Capital Improvement Plan scheduled for 6 p.m. on Feb. 16 has been postponed until Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m.
Residents and business owners were advised, in advance of the oncoming storm, to clear existing snow and ice from flat roofs, from around air vents and off limbs near wires, as the additional snow from Tuesday’s storm could cause the snow load in these areas to damage or block roofs, utility wires, trees and other structures.
Remove snow from roofs to avoid collapse
With more snow, and possibly sleet and rain, in the forecast for Delaware starting Tuesday and going into Wednesday, emergency management officials on Monday were urging residents to clear snow from roofs, particularly flat roofs. Exhaust vents should be kept clear of snow, as well. Downspouts should be cleared of any snow and ice that might have drifted over or clogged ground-level openings.
Residents were reminded that the large amount of snow accumulated Feb. 5-6 will be made heavier by additional snow, sleet or rain and could cause roofs to collapse. By keeping down spouts clear, melting snow and rain can better drain from flat roofs, but clearing as much remaining snow as possible prior to additional accumulation is important.
Heavy snow storms in past years, such as the Presidents’ Weekend storm of 2003, resulted in major accumulation on roofs and led to several serious roof and building collapses of commercial and residential properties. For the safety of the public and preservation of property, it is very important to find means of safely clearing as much snow as possible from roofs, officials said.
Presently, the National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for Delaware for Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday evening, and they are predicting a potential for 6 to 12 inches of additional snow accumulation. There is the possibility that precipitation will be heavier in the northern end of the state for this storm. However, even if it starts as a rain/snow mix in southern Delaware and along the coast, it is forecast to turn to all snow later in the storm.
Everyone is being instructed to be aware of weather conditions and act accordingly to be safe and to protect property.
According to the NWS, the “explosively developing nor’easter may bring heavy snow to much of our area starting late Tuesday and Tuesday evening and persisting through Wednesday.”
Low pressure moving from the Texas gulf coast Monday night will head into the Ohio Valley on Tuesday. That low will give up its energy to a coastal storm that will develop along the northern North Carolina coast late Tuesday and Tuesday evening. By Wednesday morning, the nor’easter is forecast to be intensifying strongly just southeast of the area and likely bringing heavy snow to a good part of the area through Wednesday and perhaps into Wednesday evening.
Far southern Delaware and extreme southeastern New Jersey may start out with mixed precipitation late Tuesday and even change to rain at times Tuesday evening, but as colder air wraps around the storm, even these areas are expected to change back to snow.
There is a large potential for heavy snow for much of the area, but as of Monday the heaviest snow was predicted to fall over New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. There is also a potential for strong winds, especially near the coast.
Through last weekend’s snow event and the one forecast for Tuesday, Delaware Emergency Management Agency has and plans to continue to communicate with agencies and organizations throughout the state and to assist in coordinating efforts of response. With public safety as the priority for all responding partners, DEMA officials continued to remind the public to heed cautionary messages regarding travel on state roads and basic household safety measures.
Delaware National Guard teams with state agencies meeting storm challenges
The Delaware National Guard has been a very active partner in response to the weekend blizzard. With the emphasis on supporting the priority life safety, the Guard has provided transportation to more than a thousand people that were stranded in disabled vehicles, needed transportation to medical services or needed assistance in evacuating homes that were without power.
According to Col. Dallas Wingate, the DNG’s director of military support, “The Delaware National Guard anticipates their mission to continue into Monday. The rate at which homes get power restored will most likely determine the extent of our support. As long as the need is there, the Delaware National Guard will be too.”
Operation Arctic Vengeance, Delaware National Guard’s response to the winter storm this weekend, now consists of 288 personnel working in shifts around the clock. About 75 military vehicles are being used to assist the citizens of Delaware. DNG efforts are being concentrated in Sussex County, where some citizens are entering more than 48 hours without power.
A report issued by the Guard Public Affairs Office, states that snow drifts and debris have made travel on secondary roads extremely difficult, even for military vehicles. The Guard has been teaming up with DelDOT crews and vehicles to access Delawareans without power in these hard-to-reach areas. The partnership was designed to allow one or two DelDOT plows to clear the way for military vehicle convoys being used for evacuation transport, officials said.
What began as evacuating a few people at a time has steadily increased to the average request being for moving six people. By the end of Sunday, it was estimated that the Guard would have moved or assisted more than1,200 people.
Task Force Sussex reported on Sunday that their average evacuation mission response time had decreased from three hours Saturday night to less than two hours Sunday. It was expected to decrease even more with the implementation of the DelDOT team plan. DNG HMMWV’s were also used to transport dialysis patients across the state to their treatments and back home.
Operation Arctic Vengeance is the largest state activation of the state’s Hometown Force in decades and was comparable to the Guard’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
Piled on cars, at corners, crossovers and sidewalks, snow still presents hazards
Even as many roads are cleared of snow and travel becomes easier for cars and trucks, snow can still endanger drivers and pedestrians. Office of Highway Safety officials reminded the public that just because snow is no longer falling, it still presents its own set of problems that often are overlooked as people experience the relief that comes with sunshine and a clear view of black asphalt.
Initially, it is very important that before starting to drive, each person clears snow off the hoods, roofs and trunks of vehicles, they said.
Andrea Summers, spokesperson for the Office of Highway Safety said, “We have seen some cars on roadways with snow several inches thick on their roofs and that snow poses a danger to other drivers if it comes flying off and into the windshields of other vehicles on the roads.”
The heavy snowfall that Delaware experienced Friday and Saturday also poses problems once it is plowed and pushed aside from roads. As people start to venture out over the next few days, they need to realize that there will be limited visibility at crossovers and on corners due to snow piled up from the roadways.
All drivers are being urged to proceed slowly and with caution when their view is obstructed by snow mounds.
Pedestrians also may experience inconvenience and maybe be put in harm’s way as they try to navigate around town on foot.
Summers said, “Please tell people we understand many sidewalks are not cleared, but that doesn’t mean they should walk in the roadway. Better to stay home!” If it is absolutely necessary to walk along the edge of a road, pedestrians should always walk facing traffic.
Officials offer advice for preparing for winter storms
With residents given a second chance to properly prepare for a winter storm inside a week, Delaware officials offered the following tips:
• Prepare a winter storm plan: Have extra blankets on hand. Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat and water-resistant boots.
• Know what winter storm watches and warnings mean: A winter storm watch means a winter storm is possible in your area. A winter storm warning means a winter storm is headed for your area. A blizzard warning means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected. Seek shelter immediately!
• When a winter storm warning is issued: Stay indoors during the storm. If you must go outside, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Understand the hazards of wind chill, which combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from a person's body at an accelerated rated, driving down the body temperature. Walk carefully on snowy, icy, sidewalks. After the storm, if you shovel snow, be extremely careful. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks. Avoid overexertion. Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must: carry a disaster supplies kit in the trunk; keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing; let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive; if your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
• Assemble a disaster supplies kit containing: First aid kit and essential medication; battery-powered NOAA Weather radio, flashlight and extra batteries; canned food and can opener; bottled water (at least one gallon of water per person per day to last at least three days); extra warm clothing, including boots, mittens, and a hat.
• Assemble a disaster supplies kit for your car, too. Have your car winterized before winter storm season.
• When a winter storm watch is issued: Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio, and TV stations, or cable TV such as The Weather Channel for further updates. Be alert to changing weather conditions. Avoid unnecessary travel.
• If you do get stuck: Stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety. Tie a brightly-colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see. Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car. Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen. As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm. Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
• Stay tuned for storm warnings: Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information.