WEATHER ALERT: Road clearing and power restoration under way, up to 2 feet of snow in Sussex

With the National Weather Service reporting snow totals of 20 to 25 inches with drifts in Sussex County, 25 inches in New Castle County and 22 inches in Kent County from this weekend’s blizzard, a State of Emergency remained in effect at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning. Residents have begun to dig out, while state and local agencies work to clear roads and power companies work to restore power to more than 16,000 homes.

Progress is being made in clearing the state’s roadways, according to the Delaware Department of Transportation, yet state safety and law enforcement officials have one message for motorists: please stay home if you don’t have to go out. DelDOT is reporting Sunday morning that the primary roads in all counties are passable and that they have started working on the secondary roads. Passable means not that the road is clear, but that it is possible to drive on it if one goes very slowly.

“Keep in mind that the National Guard Humvees are getting stuck on the secondary roads, so that’s a strong indicator that the average person with our without four-wheel drive should not be attempting to head out on the roadways if it is not an emergency,” DelDOT spokesman Jim Westhoff.

Officials were reporting four disabled vehicles on Sussex roadways as of 8 a.m. Sunday, so the potential to be stranded in temperatures below 20 degrees is there for those who choose to venture out. Snowfall totals from state agencies topped out around 15.6 inches in Selbyville, but drifts are much deeper in some locations.

The State of Emergency declared by Gov. Jack Markell at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5, remains in effect until official notice is issued by the Governor’s Office and Delaware Emergency Management Agency. However it was modified Saturday night at 8 p.m. to lift the driving restriction that had been in place since 10 p.m. Friday.

Highway Safety officials said they are especially concerned since this is Super Bowl Sunday. “We know people are a little stir crazy and would like to go watch the game out or with friends but we’re asking you to celebrate at home instead,” said Andrea Summers, spokesperson for OHS. “Please weigh your desire to get out with the need for public safety. We don’t want you to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday in a ditch.”

While there are still widespread power outages, particularly in Sussex County. Delmarva Power and Delaware Electric Cooperative are making great progress, representatives said. Saturday night, 38,000 Delaware households were without power, and as of 8:30 Sunday morning, that number had been reduced to just more than 16,000. Both companies said they are working as quickly as possible to restore power but expect that this will be a multi-day event.

Those in Kent and Sussex counties without electric power or another safe way to heat their homes are being encouraged to consider relocating to an emergency shelter. There are four shelters open in Kent and Sussex counties. The shelter in New Castle County at the Odessa Fire Hall closed at 9 a.m. The available shelters are as follows:
• Sussex Central High School, 26026 Patriots Way, Georgetown, DE 19947
• Cape Henlopen High School, 1250 Kings Highway, Lewes, DE 19958
For transportation to a shelter in Sussex County, contact the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center at 302-856-7366. The Delaware National Guard has also been assisting with transportation to existing shelters in each county throughout the day using their Humvees and will likely continue to do so as families without power decide to seek shelter.
• Dover High School, 1 Pat Lynn Drive, Dover, DE 19904
• Milford Middle School, 612 Lakeview Avenue, Milford, DE 19963
For transportation to a shelter in Kent County, contact the Kent County Emergency Operations Center at 302-735-3465.

The Delaware National Guard has also been assisting with transportation to shelters in each county using their Humvees and will likely continue to do so. It is reported that 23 are currently in residence at the Dover HS shelter, 63 are at Sussex Central HS shelter, 31 are in the Milford Middle School shelter, and 11 are at the Cape Henlopen HS shelter.

In addition to transporting residents to shelters, the Delaware National Guard has also transported almost 30 dialysis patients for treatment. They currently have 285 Soldiers and Airmen and 75 military vehicles supporting the mission.

With power outages still resulting from the heavy snow and winds of the last few days, many Delawareans are seeking alternate ways of heating homes and powering vital appliances. While they can provide a significant amount of convenience and comfort, officials warned that improper use of portable generators can be dangerous and even deadly; they must be used only as directed in operators’ manuals or as instructed by those familiar and competent in their usage.

If you are using a gas-fueled portable generator during a power outage, that generator must not be used indoors or in any confined space. Carbon monoxide poisoning or death can result from inhaling invisible and odorless fumes. It is not safe to operate a portable generator in a basement or garage, on a carport or on a covered porch. Deadly carbon monoxide fumes can even come in through an open window if the generator is operating outside near the window.

DEMA spokesperson Rosanne Pack said, “Unfortunately, illness and deaths occur every year from improper use of portable generators. Responders and emergency management officials urge the public to carefully follow instructions in the operator’s manual and to seek advice if they are using a generator and are unsure of proper use.”

Appliances should be connected directly to the generator with an extension cord. Do not connect a portable electric generator to household wiring without properly isolating the home’s electric system from the local power system. This will help minimize the risk of injury or death to others who are near or working on the system.

Preparing your vehicle following snow also requires care and attention to safety factors. When clearing snow from around vehicles, care must be taken to make sure exhaust pipes are not still under snow level and do not have snow packed inside the pipe. The car engine should not be started until the exhaust is free of snow. A vehicle should not be run inside a closed garage.

Those shoveling out from under the snow were encouraged to dress appropriately, not overexert themselves and to take frequent breaks.