WEATHER ALERT: Snowfall tops 14 inches in Selbyville; whiteout conditions, power outages, travel prohibitions continue
A winter storm warning is in effect in the area until 7 p.m. on Saturday evening. Light to moderate snow with embedded areas of heavy snow near the Atlantic coast was occurring across the area late this afternoon, adding about 6 inches of snow in Selbyville over the course of several hours and causing whiteout conditions in some areas. The heavy snow will move off the coast by 6 p.m., according to National Weather Service officials.
Storm total snow accumulations of 16 to 28 inches are expected across the bulk of the area, with accumulation reaching 14.3 inches in Selbyville and 19.2 inches in Dover as of 5 p.m. A northeast to north wind with gusts of 30 to 35 mph inland and 35 to 45 mph along the coast will create extensive blowing and drifting snow. The wind and snow will create very hazardous conditions.
A coastal flood advisory remains in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday. Higher-than-normal water levels combined with wave action will cause minor tidal flooding with the high tide cycle through early Sunday morning. Following Saturday afternoon’s high tide, the next high tide occurs between 2 and 4 a.m. Sunday. High tides occur later on the back bays and also on Delaware Bay.
A State of Emergency remains in effect across all of Delaware until further notice, with only essential and emergency personnel being permitted on the roadways. As of 2 p.m., accident statistics from the storm included five injury crashes, 43 property-damage crashes and 185 disabled vehicles.
State agencies, Delaware National Guard joining together
State employees and Delaware National Guard troops greeted the sunrise struggling against the blowing snow. The Delaware Department of Transportation has been out in full force since daybreak. Full force means about 500 employees and about 460 pieces of equipment.
“Right now, we are making some progress against the snow,” said DelDOT spokesman Jim Westhoff. “With the drifting and the heavy snow, it’s an uphill battle, but our people are doing it.”
Westhoff said that DelDOT crews will focus exclusively on the primary roads until they are in good condition. They will be working around the clock so that they can start on the secondary roads as soon as possible.
DelDOT is joined on the roads by soldiers from the Delaware National Guard. There are currently 175 Delaware Guardsmen on duty. They are organized into three county task forces of about 45 Soldiers each, a Joint Operations Center of about 20, and the rest coordinating with civilian agencies.
Working in conjunction with DEMA and state and local emergency agencies, the task forces
are prepared to assist with: Emergency Medical Service (EMS) calls; fire calls; law enforcement calls; dialysis patient transport. They can also assist DelDOT and local Public Works in clearing disabled/abandoned vehicles from roadways.
Each task force has Highly Mobile Multi-Wheeled Vehicles, Light-Medium Tactical Vehicles, and a wrecker. All Soldiers are equipped with the latest in cold weather gear, known as the Extreme Cold Weather System, and were given detailed guidance on how to stay safe during the mission.
The Delaware Air National Guard has forces on standby should they be needed to serve as a follow-on force.
The Delaware State Police have added additional staffing in some areas in Delaware. All of the troopers on the roads are working in teams and driving four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Full restoration of power expected to take multiple days
With the amounts of snow falling across the area on Saturday, power restoration efforts by Delaware Electric Cooperative have been severely hampered by the snow covered roads and Delaware Electric Cooperative is advising members without power to consider their need to relocate to an emergency shelter in Sussex or Kent counties because the restoration effort will be a multiple-day event, representatives said.
As of 4 p.m. on Saturday, Delaware Electric Co-op had more than 20,000 members that were still without power, and crews from states as far away as Connecticut and North Carolina were heading to Delaware Electric Coop to assist them with their power restoration efforts on Sunday.
For residents who determine that they need emergency shelter, there are 4 shelters opening in Kent and Sussex counties. They are as follows:
In Sussex County: Sussex Central High School, 26026 Patriots Way, Georgetown, DE 19947; and Cape Henlopen High School, 1250 Kings Highway, Lewes, DE 19958. Those who need transportation to a shelter in Sussex County should contact the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center at 302-856-7366.
In Kent County, Dover High School, 1 Pat Lynn Drive, Dover, DE 19904; and Milford Middle School, 612 Lakeview Avenue, Milford, DE 19963. Those who need transportation to a shelter in Kent County should contact the Kent County Emergency Operations Center at 302-735-3465.
“We understand the concern that our members have with restoring their power as quickly and safely as possible and we thank them for their understanding in the face of this epic snowstorm,” DEC representatives said.