Inland flooding and beach erosion remain after storm [PHOTOS]

Property owners and residents in low-lying areas of coastal Delaware continued this weekend to feel the impact of what many are calling Nor’Ida – former Hurricane Ida, turned nor’easter – despite the scaling back of the storm to a stiff breeze and a light misting of rain on Saturday, Nov. 14. Though waters had begun to recede in the back bays after the morning high tide on Saturday, severe flooding in areas near canals and along the Inland Bays continued to impede access to some streets and homes.

Coastal Point • J. Pryor, S. Lyons, M.P. Titus
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Route 1 remained closed on Sunday morning under partially sunny skies as flooding from the Indian River Bay continued to swamp the southern section of roadway adjacent to the Indian River Inlet Bridge. Delaware Department of Transportation workers began cleanup of an estimated 3 feet of sand washed from the state-controlled beach just north of the bridge over the roadway due to a breach of the dune there. DelDOT officials have said they expect the roadway to remain closed in that area for most of the weekend. (Updates to the status of Route 1 will be posted to as soon as they are available.)

Bay flooding of Route 1 in the northernmost communities of North Bethany had all but disappeared by Saturday, after having made the roadway impassible farther south of the bridge on Friday. Fred Hudson Road north of Bethany Beach remained closed on Sunday, but only the easternmost section of the road was still under water.

In Bethany Beach, water levels on Saturday had dropped by as much as a foot along Pennsylvania Avenue from their peak on Friday, reaching only to the first step of the entrance to Bethany Blues restaurant, as opposed to the top of the second step. However, extensive flooding of the 200 block of adjacent streets from Central Boulevard to Fifth Street continued. Those streets were closed at Route 1 and for portions of their 100 blocks.

On the west side of Route 1, north of Garfield Parkway, neighborhoods near canals experienced more extensive flooding overnight from Friday into Saturday, with clearly visible peak flood levels marked by flotsam left when the water had begun to recede. The flooding had surrounded numerous homes and made streets impassible, and water in some canals in that area remained at or above their banks on Saturday afternoon. State officials again issued a closure notice for Route 26 near the Assawoman Canal on Saturday evening as the evening high tide approached but officially reopened the roadway again on Sunday morning.

In South Bethany, canal water levels on Saturday afternoon remained very high, within 6 inches of the tops of some bulkheads, and had overtopped those bulkheads in some areas at previous high tides.

In Fenwick Island, canals and bays alike had overtopped the bulkheads and banks on the west side of the town and continued to flood streets on Saturday afternoon. Some homes had been surrounded by the floodwaters during peak flooding and the water remained near foundations of many homes in the town on Saturday afternoon.

Damage to dunes seen in Bethany, South Bethany and state beaches

The breach of the natural dune north of the Indian River Inlet Bridge was not the only major damage the storm did to the area’s beaches. In Bethany Beach, a dune breach south of Parkwood Street ran nearly a block in length to the south and had caused the area between the reconstructed dune and the bulkhead or secondary dune to fill with sea water on Friday.

But as of mid-day Saturday, nearly all of that water had returned to the ocean through the dune – a slightly shorter trip with more than half of the dune’s width also eaten away by the storm-tossed sea on Friday. The wooden dune crossings that lead from the town’s boardwalk to the peak of the dune led instead to a 15-foot drop-off to the eroded beach in some locations. Those checking out the damage and wave action were asked not to access the beach itself and to stay off the dune crossings, due to safety concerns.

A similar scene was present in South Bethany on Saturday, only instead of a partially dry bed of mud behind the reconstructed dune, South Bethany had a tide pool that was feet deep in some locations, running the entire length of the beach from the northern town limits to the dune breach just north of Logan Street. The town has had persistent problems with tidal flooding of sea water under the dune to that area since it was constructed, though the scale of the flooding has not been nearly this severe.

The dune breach in South Bethany on Saturday afternoon spanned more than a block in length, from Logan Street south into the state-controlled beach, where the more western-lying section of dune that remained displayed a sheer, dramatic drop-off of more than 12 feet. At the northern edge of the breach, the dune gradually transitioned over a handful of blocks from being just a few feet high and far west of its former front toe to being its full height but much narrowed, with a steep drop-off at the eastern edge due to the erosion.

Property damage appears to be minimal

Property damage throughout the area from the storm appeared to be limited primarily to torn window screens, broken gingerbread details, broken tree limbs and debris left discarded by the winds and flooding, as well as the impacts of that flooding in low-lying areas. Many are attributing that lack of damage to the presence of the reconstructed dunes, which took the battering in place of homes, streets and businesses.

The southernmost beachfront home in South Bethany, despite being the site of the dune breach, appeared undamaged, though broken dune fence, uprooted beach grasses and other debris were wrapped around its pilings on Saturday. Potted plants on the landward entrance porch had withstood the brunt of the storm intact and in place, while neighboring homes were damp underneath but otherwise visibly unscathed.

In Fenwick Island, a shed at one bayside home was still partially engulfed by bay waters on Saturday afternoon, but most of even the most low-lying homes in the area appeared to have been raised up just high enough to have avoided flooding at the floor level or above.

The only reported evacuations in the area came inland, in the Oak Orchard area, where flooding stranded about 50 residents until the National Guard helped move them out to shelter as the storm arrived in force on Thursday. Emergency officials on Thursday had implored those living in low-lying areas to seek shelter on higher ground before the roadways became impassable.

Pick up the Nov. 20, 2009, issue of the Coastal Point or return to for more on the impact of the storm and what it will mean for the area in the future.