WEATHER ALERT: Vehicles ordered off roads as area again under blizzard warning
Gov. Jack Markell declared a State of Emergency covering the entire state of Delaware effective at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, with all non-emergency vehicles ordered off the roads.
With the second winter storm in five days setting in, snowfall totals were expected to be significant and winds were expected to be high. Road conditions were expected to be affected by the snowfall from the last storm that left snow still on the side of, or in some cases, still on the roads.
As of midnight Wednesday and until further notice, the emergency declaration allows only emergency vehicles and essential personnel on the roads until further notice. As with the weekend storm, private-sector businesses are being strongly urged to consider the safety of their employees and the restriction of travel during the storm when deciding whether to remain operating. Abandoned vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense, officials said.
“Once again, staying off the roads will be the wisest thing for people in Delaware to do, both for their own safety and to allow road and emergency crews to do their jobs,” they noted.
The Emergency Operations Center of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency has been activated, National Guard personnel and equipment are again engaged in emergency transportation and are prepared for rescues. Shelters are open in Milford and Lewes and on standby in Dover and New Castle.
Essential personnel permitted to travel despite the ban include only: authorized personnel responding to the State of Emergency, peace officers, emergency management or rescue personnel, medical personnel, utility personnel, snow clearance and building and systems maintenance personnel, members of the media, carriers and drivers of commercial motor vehicles transporting commodities such as heating oil, propane, gasoline and salt, or staple grocery supplies to food stores, or deliveries of agricultural products necessary to maintain the life of livestock, and employees of critical 24/7 facilities, such as health care facilities, commercial facilities and correctional institutions.
Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin noted Wednesday morning that police are citing violators of the travel ban. Emphasizing the point, he noted that even the OVPD's secretary had been ordered to stay home, as she is considered non-essential personnel.
Officials said DelDOT crews had been working on secondary roads all day Tuesday trying to clear at least one lane before the next snowfall began. Tuesday night they were to begin salting the primary roads and put the plows out as soon as snow begins to accumulate, concentrating especially on bridges and overpasses.
Crews reloaded the trucks with salt, and mechanics checked the trucks while drivers got dinner before the long night ahead of them. “We are preparing our people and our equipment to work through the night,” said Jim Westhoff, spokesperson for DelDOT, on Tuesday night.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm began a little later than originally predicted, at 7 p.m. The precipitation started as a rain or rain/sleet mixture, changing to snow overnight into early Wednesday morning with accumulations of 4 to 6 inches possible in some areas by morning rush hour.
The storm appeared Tuesday night to be taking a slight northward, turn which meant accumulations in Kent and Sussex counties should be a bit lower than expected. A brief spate of sleet Tuesday evening in coastal Sussex led to just a dusting of snow before dawn on Wednesday, with .7 inches of accumulation recorded in Selbyville overnight. By 2 p.m., an additional .8 inches of accumulation had been recorded there, but blowing snow has been causing near-whiteout conditions at times.
In all, 10 to 16 inches of accumulation were predicted from the storm in New Castle County, with 7 to 10 inches predicted for Kent County and 4 to 7 inches in Sussex.
Some locations will receive a rain/snow mix, and there are drains and culverts that are blocked due to recent snowfall, officials noted, so there may be significant ponding in areas where snow cannot drain away. Office of Highway Safety officials are asking residents to stay off the roads once snow starts to fall.
“It is too dangerous for people to be out there in these conditions,” said Andrea Summers, spokesperson for OHS. “The increased chance for being involved in a crash is just too high in weather like this. Don’t risk it.”
As of 10 a.m., 23 property damage crashes, one personal injury crash and 30 disabled vehicles had already been reported from this latest storm.
Once the driving restriction is lifted, 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.
The impact of additional heavy snow and/or snow/rain mix will likely cause additional loading on roofs and may cause structural problems, officials warned. In fact, roof collapses and structural damage had been reported in all three Delaware counties as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, including at West Seaford Elementary School and the Scerni Industrial Park.
Of particular concern are those buildings with flat roofs, such as on mobile homes, sheds and chicken houses. Residents should take the following precautions: Monitor the weather and condition of the roof; inspect roofs for leaks or structural deficiencies that may develop during the storm; clear leaves, snow, ice, silt or other debris from gutters, drains, downspouts and scuppers as safely as possible.
As with the last storm, the National Guard is ready to assist with the mission, which they are calling Operation Arctic Vengance II. About 200 Guardsmen are expected to be on duty to assist by the onset of the storm; this includes any forces still on duty from Arctic Vengeance 1.
“It has been a long weekend for many of our Guardsmen," said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, adjutant general, "but as we say, the Guard is ‘Always Ready, Always There.'"
Just as over the weekend, the Guard is expected to be tasked with providing transportation support, especially for dialysis patients and for those seeking shelter; fire and Emergency Medical Service support; and law enforcement support. The Guard can also provide assistance in debris removal and providing potable water when requested by DEMA.
Approximately 435 people in Sussex County were still without power Tuesday evening, and Red Cross Shelters remained open at Sussex Central High School and Milford Middle School. Officials said they would continue to monitor weather conditions and make decisions on opening additional shelters as needed. Those who are bringing infants to shelters during times of power outages should bring their own diapers, formula and cleansing products, as none will be provided.
Those who need transportation to a shelter in Sussex County should contact the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center at (302) 856-7366. All shelter facilities have back-up generators in place, and staff is available to assist the public. However, those relocating to shelters should bring necessary supplies with them, including clothing, sleeping bags and pillows, medications, drinks, and non-perishable foods.
As the new storm moves in, 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.
The number of power outages statewide has increased as the weather conditions worsen. As of 11 a.m. there were two reported power outages in Kent County, 307 in Sussex County and 1,971 outages in New Castle County. More than 16,000 customers in New Castle County were without power as of 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The Delaware State Police reported more than 50 crashes between the time the State of Emergency was declared at midnight and 11 a.m. Observation of the State of Emergency driving restrictions is vital in order to reduce the number of incidents and help ensure safety, officials said.
The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center and Delaware State Police are asking residents who have vehicles parked along secondary roads to move them so that plows can work in those areas.
Blizzard warning in effect through midnight
The Feb. 10 blizzard was predicted to continue to intensify as it moves northward into the evening. The mixed precipitation that fell earlier Wednesday had changed back to all snow as of the early afternoon. The snow will continue into tonight and be heavy at times. Winds are expected to increase, with gusts to between 40 and 50 mph.
These strong winds and heavy snowfall will bring significantly reduced visibilities, and blizzard conditions are expected at times. The conditions will persist into early Wednesday night before tapering off. However, winds will continue to be strong this evening, so there will be plenty of blowing snow with reduced visibilities, as well, on Wednesday night.
Total snow accumulations are expected to range from 8 to 16 inches in some areas into early Wednesday night, with the highest amounts away from the coast. Coastal areas are predicted to receive 4 to 7 inches of accumulation.
Near-blizzard or blizzard conditions are rare for the area, so, officials said, it is likely that people will not realize the peril that exists in venturing out in such storms. Life-threatening conditions are possible, and driving will be hazardous at best during this winter storm. It is highly recommended that travel be curtailed due to the dangerous conditions and that people only drive if it is truly an emergency situation.
A blizzard warning means severe winter weather conditions are expected or occurring. Falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibilities are likely. This will lead to whiteout conditions, making travel extremely dangerous. Do not travel. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle.
Live snowfall totals are available online at http://deos.udel.edu/. The latest official state storm information can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DEstorminfo, as well as online at www.coastalpoint.com, on the Coastal Point Facebook page and on Coastal Point’s Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/coastalpoint.
Delaware Helpline available to take non-emergency calls during storm
The Delaware Helpline, a toll-free statewide information and referral service that connects people to state services and provides assistance for problems, concerns and issues will be taking non-emergency calls during the snow event. Starting Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 7:30 a.m., residents can call 1-800-464-4357 with their questions.
Citizens may call the Delaware Helpline’s trained specialists for answers regarding the following topics:
• Weather updates;
• Numbers to call to report power outages;
• Where to call to arrange emergency transport to shelters;
• Road conditions;
• What residents should take if they are going to a shelter;
• Tips for reporting a roof collapse;
• Status of closings, or State of Emergency.
The Helpline is being used to help ease some of the volume of calls that the County Emergency Operation Centers were receiving during the last snowstorm.
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.
Wood expresses thanks for snow cleanup, extends advice on preparation for new storm
Locally, Ocean View Mayor Gordon Wood praised the town’s Public Works Department for their work on snow removal since the blizzard began last Friday.
"Kudos to the Public Works Department on their snow removal efforts. Charlie, Mike and Jarrod have worked above and beyond,” he said.
Wood noted that, as they work to get to all streets, they do not have time to clean plow buildup from driveways.
“This is a hardship for some, but that is not their responsibility. Patience is a virtue. We will all enjoy Round 3 Tuesday evening, as unexpected as such events are. The crew will be reaching the end of their energy by then. We have gotten more than our share of snow and a whole lot less than some. Wish us luck on this round,” he said.
Wood on Tuesday encouraged residents to keep a close eye on what will be happening over the next 24 hours.
“It looks like we could get a lot of sleet before we get any snow, and the accumulation figures change according to the person giving them. Please keep checking, as this storm could go either way, but be prepared for the worst, and if it doesn’t get that bad, then we have dodged the bullet,” he added.
Closures and cancelations begin, extend beyond storm period
Due to inclement weather, all Indian River School District schools will be closed on Wednesday, Feb. 10. All 12-month employees are NOT required to report to work.
Beebe Medical Center has closed all of its satellite outpatient facilities and services on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010, due to the winter storm
• This includes all satellite facilities in Georgetown, Long Neck, Milton, Millville and Beebe Health Campus on Route 24 in Rehoboth Beach;
• Gull House will be closed Wednesday;
• Beebe Sleep Disorder Center will be closed Wednesday;
• Wound Care and Diabetes Management in Long Neck will be closed.
The Hospital and its Emergency Department on Savannah Road in Lewes remain open and fully operational.
• Outpatient imaging and lab services will be open at the Hospital.
• Community Healthcare Access Program (CHAP) services at the hospital will be closed.
• Tunnell Cancer Center will be open on Wednesday.
Beebe Medical Center has closed all outpatient Beebe Physical Rehab, Beebe Imaging and Beebe Lab Services at its Satellite facilities on Thursday, Feb. 11, due to the winter storm. Gull House will be closed, and Beebe Home Health will be closed.
Tunnell Cancer Center remains open.
The Outpatient Surgery Center at the Beebe Health Campus will be open Thursday, with outpatient surgeries being performed.
The Hospital and its Emergency Department on Savannah Road in Lewes remain open and fully operational. Outpatient imaging and lab services are open at the Hospital.
Beebe Imaging Services at outpatient facilities will be open Saturday to handle a full schedule
(Remember to call 911 in a life-threatening emergency.)
Beebe School of Nursing is closed Wednesday.
Del Tech in Georgetown is closed Wednesday.
Delaware State University is closed Wednesday.
The University of Delaware is closed Wednesday.
Wilmington University in Georgetown and Rehoboth is closed Wednesday.
Salisbury University is closed Wednesday.
Wor-Wic Community College is closed Wednesday.
Delmarva Christian High School is closed Wednesday.
Most Blessed Sacrament School is closed Wednesday.
Little Hearts Learning Center in Millville is closed Wednesday.
Little Red Schoolhouse is closed Wednesday.
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.
CHEER centers are closed on Wednesday.
Meals on Wheels of Lewes and Rehoboth will have no meal delivery on Wednesday.
The Selbyville Public Library is closed on Wednesday.
The Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company’s awards banquet has been postponed until March 6.
Allied Waste will have no trash pickup on Wednesday.
Waste Management will have no trash pickup on Wednesday.
Delaware State government offices are closed Wednesday.
Sussex County government offices are closed Wednesday.
The Sussex County Court of Chancery is closed Wednesday.
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.
If you are aware of additional closures and cancelations, please post them as comments on this story.