WEATHER ALERT: Governor declares state of emergency as area braces for 1 to 2 feet of snow, strong winds
State of Emergency declared for state as of 8 p.m., vehicles ordered off roads as of 10 p.m.
Gov. Jack Markell declared a State of Emergency covering the entire state of Delaware effective at 8 p.m. Friday, with vehicles ordered off the roads as of 10 p.m.
Conditions were expected to intensify, with heavy snowfall and strong winds that will make driving exceptionally dangerous. Given the anticipated strength of this storm, DelDOT crews are expected to concentrate on major arteries for plowing, initially leaving many secondary roads unattended.
As of 10 p.m. Friday night and until further notice, the emergency declaration allows only emergency vehicles and essential personnel on the roads until further notice. Officials said the governor will evaluate the conditions of the roads after the storm passes on Saturday morning to determine how long this restriction will remain in place.
Private-sector businesses are 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.
“For your safety, the safety of our emergency personnel, and the safety of all Delawareans, drivers should stay off the roads once this storm begins and intensifies,” Markell said. “Our state agencies have been working together to prepare for and combat the effects of this storm. Remaining off the roads helps them in this effort and is important to public safety.”
The Emergency Operations Center of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency has been activated, National Guard personnel and equipment have been placed around the state to be used if needed for emergency transportation and rescues, and plans are being made between emergency managers and the American Red Cross to open shelters throughout the state should the need arise.
During State of Emergencies, paratransit service will be confined to dialysis only trips. If DART provided a morning trip to a paratransit customer, DART will pick them up for their return. When there is a State of Emergency, it is essential for motorists to stay off the highways so that DelDOT crews can clear the major arteries.
More information about DART services during the storm will be available on DartFirstState.com and by calling 302-576-6265 for recorded service status messages.
DEMA spokesperson Rosanne Pack said, “Everyone should check their battery and crank-operated flash lights and radios. Should power be interrupted, battery or crank operated radios will be an important source of information regarding weather conditions, road updates and availability of services. And, of course, flashlights and battery powered lanterns are important as a light source. Candles and open flame lighting should be avoided.”
There could be snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches by evening rush hour, officials noted, advising those leaving work during this time period to be aware of road conditions and travel at safe speeds. Indian River School District schools dismissed classes two hours early, ahead of the start of the snow.
Since travel could be difficult through the entire weekend, residents should check non-perishable food and water supplies and medications and replenish anything necessary before snow fall, officials advised.
“Right now, we are working diligently to prepare for the imminent heavy snow storm,” said Col. Robert Legg, chief of staff for Delaware National Guard (DNG). “This will allow us to react quickly should Governor Markell call upon the Delaware National Guard to assist the citizens of Delaware. We have fully staffed our Joint Operations Center and have pre-positioned equipment and communication resources. We have food stacked in our facilities and are prepared to use our power generators in the event of electrical failure. We also have 200 Soldiers immediately on hand and available to seamlessly move to state duty when needed and engaged by DEMA.”
Officials advised the public to sign up to receive Twitter updates on the storm at http://twitter.com/destorminfo.
Also available are the state’s traffic cameras, which provide live views of roads and intersections throughout Delaware, via www.deldot.gov.
Between 12 and 24 inches of snow predicted in area, more to the north, along with strong winds
Weather officials are predicting that the powerful winter storm passing through the area will significantly impact most of the region through Saturday, with up to 18 inches of snow predicted for southern Sussex County and as much as 2 feet predicted in northern portions of the state.
An area of low pressure will rapidly intensify Friday night near the coast of North Carolina. This potent storm will then track northeastward during Saturday, gradually moving away from the area. Given the track of the storm, heavy snow and strong winds will impact a good part of the area Friday night through most of Saturday.
A blizzard warning remains in effect until 7 p.m. Saturday. Snow will overspread the region from south to north into Friday evening and early Friday night, then continue through much of Saturday. The snow will fall heavy at times, with rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour at times. The heaviest snow is anticipated to fall from mainly mid-evening Friday through about midday Saturday. The snow may mix with sleet at times Friday night, mainly across southern Delaware.
Storm total snow accumulations of 18 to 22 inches are expected, with 25 inches across central and southern Delaware to far southern New Jersey. An increasing northeast to north wind with gusts of 40 to 50 mph mainly overnight and Saturday will create extensive blowing and drifting snow along with whiteout conditions. The wind combined with the falling snow will create extremely hazardous conditions, including greatly reduced visibilities to less than a quarter-mile at times.
A blizzard warning means severe winter weather conditions are expected. Falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibilities are likely. This will lead to whiteout conditions, making travel extremely dangerous to perhaps impossible. Stay tuned to NOAA weather radio or other sources for further information.
A coastal flood advisory remains in effect from 11 p.m. Friday evening to 6 a.m. Sunday. The major winter storm is expected to produce northeast winds reaching gale and also storm force along coastal areas late Friday night into Saturday evening. This onshore flow and wave action will cause minor tidal flooding with the high tide cycles from early Saturday morning into early Sunday morning. The most widespread minor tidal flooding is expected with the high tide Saturday afternoon. Wave action will exacerbate the tidal flooding and also cause more beach erosion.
High tides on Saturday will occur between 1 and 3 a.m. and again between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. High tides on early Sunday morning will occur between 2 and 4 a.m. High tides will occur later on the back bays and also on Delaware Bay.
Current expectations are for the tidal flooding to peak in the minor range. But if the low pressure system intensifies further and/or tracks closer to the coast, there is a low chance some moderate tidal flooding might occur. The most vulnerable location will be in Sussex County.
A coastal flood advisory indicates that onshore winds and tides will combine to generate flooding of low areas along the shore. Do not park your vehicle in areas prone to tidal flooding or take roadways that are prone to tidal flooding.
Agencies use period of clear weather to prepare for coming storm
Delaware agencies spent much of the clear-weather period prior to the start of this afternoon’s anticipated blizzard conditions to get ready for the storm. The public was urged on Friday to make preparations to ride out the worst of an overnight storm by staying indoors and off the roads. Snow is expected continue through the night and into early afternoon Saturday.
According to Joe Miketta of the National Weather Service, the heaviest snow will be between 10 p.m. Friday and mid-morning Saturday.
“Snow fall could reach 2 inches an hour. That, combined with strong winds, including gusts up to 50 and 60 mph, will make clearing very difficult, “ he said. “Accumulation in Kent County and northern Sussex County could be up to 24 inches.”
In a mid-morning conference call with Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), county emergency management agencies and numerous partners in snow storm response, the National Weather Service issued the following estimated snow fall for the state: Southern Sussex County , 12 inches; Northern Sussex County and all of Kent County, 12 inches up to 24 inches; and New Castle County – 10 to 12 inches.
The earliest snow fall is expected to be wetter and heavier that previous snows this winter. That, coupled with high winds could result in downed power lines and power outages.
Crews from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) are treating the roads with a salt and water solution called brine. Crews are also working on equipment, making sure that everything is in good condition.
“We need to use these hours of clear weather to get ready,” said Jim Westhoff, spokesman for DelDOT.
Westhoff said the salt stockpiles are full, the equipment is in good condition, and the people are prepared to work hard all weekend. “We are as ready as we can be,” he said. “Our people will be working around the clock until the roads are safe.”
Delaware Guard blizzard activities launched as ‘Operation Arctic Vengeance’
In what military planners are calling Operation Arctic Vengeance, the Delaware National Guard is working to prepare its forces to aid the state in a state of emergency.
The director of military support has been engaged with state and regional emergency management agencies to determine the scope of the Guard’s response.
Because of previously scheduled training, more than 170 soldiers from the Delaware National Guard are immediately available, with about 300 standing by should they be called upon.
The plan calls for the Delaware National Guard to set up a task force in each county. Each task force will consist of about 45 Soldiers, 15 Highly Mobile Multi-Wheeled Vehicles (Humvees), a light-medium tactical vehicle and a wrecker.
“This is where we shine,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, addressing leaders during a situation briefing. “This is where we show our value to the citizens of Delaware.”
The Delaware National Guard works in coordination with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency to assist local and state agencies in protecting the citizens and property of the First State. The Guard is typically tasked with providing transportation support, especially for dialysis patients; 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.
“Our specialized equipment and highly-trained Guardsmen are unique assets to the state,” said Vavala. “Our folks are equipped and ready to serve around the clock to help the state and its communities.”
The Delaware National Guard has stood up its Joint Operations Center at its headquarters, where it maintains constant communication with the Emergency Operation Centers, its three task forces, DEMA and other agencies.
The Guard is fully prepared to assist DEMA all law enforcement and rescue agencies in keeping Delawareans safe during this winter storm.
The National Guard Twitter feed can be followed at twitter.com/DelawareNG, as well as on Facebook.
Sussex County activates EOC, pre-positions paramedics ahead of blizzard
Forecasts now call for 18 to 30 inches of snow, gusty winds and tidal flooding this weekend
Sussex County was to activate its Emergency Operations Center and pre-position paramedics at local fire stations Friday evening in preparation for a major winter storm still expected to bring more than 2 feet of snow to parts of the region.
The National Weather Service’s blizzard warning remains in effect for all of Sussex County, until 7 p.m. Saturday. Forecasters were predicting a range of 18 to 30 inches of snow to fall across the area overnight and well into Saturday, county officials noted.
The snow, possibly mixed with sleet and rain, could fall at the rate of 2 inches an hour, with 30 mph winds and visibilities under a quarter-mile, resulting in whiteout, blizzard conditions. Tidal flooding also is possible with this potentially dangerous coastal storm.
“The time for preparation and dress-rehearsal is over,” Sussex County EOC Director Joseph L. Thomas said Friday afternoon. “Now is the time for all of us, emergency planners and the public alike, to implement our plans, to pool our resources and to hunker down for what looks to be a rough 18 to 24 hours.”
Non-essential travel during that time is being strongly discouraged as heavy snowfall totals and wind-whipped drifts will keep roads impassable and treacherous.
In anticipation of the storm, the County EOC will be staffed with additional 911 dispatchers, storm hotline call takers and representatives from various government agencies beginning at 6 p.m. Friday. Those additional staff members and agency representatives will be on hand around the clock for the duration of the event, responding to public requests and coordinating emergency response.
In the meantime, Sussex County Emergency Medical Services will position additional paramedics at fire and ambulance stations throughout the county to ensure EMS coverage remains constant during the storm, EMS Acting Director Robert Stuart said.
“It is critical that the public heed the warnings and stay off the roads tonight and Saturday. Stay inside your homes where you are safe from the elements,” Sussex County Administrator David B. Baker said. “That will enable state Department of Transportation crews to clear roads and allow our public safety providers to handle any emergencies during and after the storm.”
The public should be prepared for limited travel, widespread power outages and downed trees, as well as tidal flooding. Residents should be stocked with basic household supplies, including extra food and water, first-aid supplies, flashlights and batteries, a battery-powered weather radio, extra prescription medicines, baby items, an emergency heat source and sufficient heating fuel.
No evacuations have been ordered, but Thomas said emergency planners can activate sheltering if conditions warrant. The Sussex County EOC will continue to monitor forecasts for the storm and issue public updates should they become necessary.
For a list of road closures, visit the Delaware Department of Transportation Web site at www.deldot.gov. To view a map of power outages in Sussex County, visit Delmarva Power’s Web site at www.delmarva.com and the Delaware Electric Cooperative’s Web site at www.delaware.coop. For updates, stay tuned to local television and radio stations, as well as to the Sussex County EOC Web site, at www.sussexcountyde.gov/services/storm.
Members of the public who have storm-related questions or non-emergency concerns can contact the Sussex County EOC’s storm information line, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, at (302) 856-7366.
Delaware Electric Cooperative issues Beat the Peak Alert
Because of the cold temperatures over the region, Delaware Electric Cooperative and Choptank Electric Cooperative are asking all of their members to voluntarily conserve or limit energy usage between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m., Saturday evening, Feb. 6, and again between the hours of 6 and 8 a.m., Monday Morning, Feb. 8, when the membership is expected to be using the greatest amount of electricity and as a result the cooperatives will be purchasing power from the market at extremely high prices.
“During ‘normal’ load periods we pay only pennies per kilowatt-hour for power. However, during ‘peak’ demand or energy periods when the temperatures rise, we can pay up to $1 per kilowatt-hour and in turn, we must pass these higher costs on to our members, which may have an impact on rates.
“During these ‘peak’ hours, we are asking our members to turn off all unnecessary lights and appliances that may not be needed. We would ask that our members delay major appliance usage, such as dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers and delay any hot water usage.
Other important steps to take might include adjusting thermostats down 3 degrees during these “peak” times.
Pet owners: Delaware Animal Response has been activated
In response to pending snow emergency in Delaware, State Veterinarian Heather Hirst has ordered the activation of Delaware Animal Response (DAR) last evening in preparation for possible power outages or collapsed buildings during the storm.
Hirst said, “Although we do not anticipate the need for a full animal emergency response, DAR activation puts the SPCAs and the Office of the State Veterinarian on alert for the possibility that there may be a need to care for displaced pets.” Under the direction of DAR, the SPCAs provide on-scene personnel, set up temporary shelters, assist with animal search and rescue, and provide 24-hour care and housing of lost or displaced pets.”
Elainea Goldthwaite, DAR coordinator, said, “Pet stores or boarding facilities in Delaware could suffer power outage or structural collapse due to snow accumulation and/or high winds. The DAR is responsible for coordinating the appropriate response through the efforts of the SPCAs in Delaware. Together we will ensure that the pets are properly cared for in their time of need.”
Individuals experiencing problems during this storm that result in their needing shelter for their pet animals should contact DAR (302-698-4500) or the local SPCA.
Cancelations and closures begin
Beebe Medical Center has closed all of its satellite outpatient facilities on Saturday, Feb. 6, due to the pending blizzard. The Beebe Walk-in Health Center in Kmart in Rehoboth Beach and the Weekend Walk-in Clinic in Millville also will be closed. The hospital and its Emergency Department on Savannah Road in Lewes remain open and fully operational.
Sussex County’s Greenwood, Milton and South Coastal libraries will be closed Saturday, Feb. 6, due to snow.
The Town of South Bethany Budget and Finance Committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 6 has been canceled. The meeting has been re-scheduled for Feb. 13, from noon to 2 p.m.
All Delaware State Parks, including campground areas and nature centers, were closed at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5. Parks officials said they expect the parks to remain closed at least through Saturday, Feb. 6, due to the snowstorm. Cancelations or postponements have already been issued for weekend activities. “At this point, we plan to reopen our parks when we have cleared enough snow to provide safe and convenient access for our visitors,” said Park Administrator Patrick Cooper. For further information, visit the DNREC Web site, at www.dnrec.delaware.gov, or the Delaware State Parks Web site, at www.destateparks.com.
River Soccer Club: All indoor games at SDSA scheduled for tomorrow are canceled and will be played next week. All games next week will start one hour later than scheduled.
The Rehoboth Beach Film Society, Lewes Public Library and Movies at Midway have rescheduled the monthly film series Around the World, featuring critically acclaimed, international, independent films, due to inclement weather. The rescheduled event will feature a screening of “The Drummer” on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. in the upstairs screening room at the Movies at Midway. The screening is free and open to the public.
Notices of any additional closings or cancellations due to this storm, or of significant damage from the storm, should be posted as comments to this story.