Driving ban lifted in Delaware after Hurricane Sandy; governor gives first damage report
Hurricane Sandy weakened after making landfall near Atlantic City, N.J. Monday night, but high winds brought down electric lines throughout Delaware, while more than 8 inches of rain, tidal flows, and "Nor'easter" winds caused flooding in many areas. The driving ban has been lifted in Delaware, as of 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, but state offices and schools are closed today.
Gov. Jack Markell said Delaware residents were "fortunate" to escape the worst of Hurricane Sandy, and credited residents for following evacuation orders and driving restrictions — plus with a lighter-than-expected punch from the storm.
"Looking at the devastation (in other states) around us, we were somewhat fortunate," said Markell at a press conference Tuesday at 9 a.m. "We had significant flooding, 40,000 people without power, but I feel fortunate we escaped the brunt of it. I give a lot of credit to the people in Delaware themselves for listening to the mandatory evacuations and driving restrictions."
The statewide driving ban has been lifted, as of Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. A driving warning remains in place, and motorists are urged to use caution because some roads are flooded.
"You can go to work unless your business is in an evacuation area," Markell said.
State offices and schools remain closed today.
Markell thanked the emergency workers, first responders, and National Guard for their efforts under difficult circumstances.
"It has been an amazing effort," he said.
A total of 970 residents went to the seven shelters that were set up throughout the state. Six of seven shelters had accessibility for pets, and two shelters had special accommodations for people with medical problems.
The areas that were evacuated are still off-limits, even though the statewide driving ban has been lifted.
Markell said he will be touring the areas that have been hardest hit today, as damage is assessed. Right now there is no estimate on the damages.
As for the areas that were damaged the most, Route 1 between Bethany Beach and Dewey Beach remains closed, and DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt said it will "take some time" to assess the damage, clear the sand and reopen the road.
"It's not going to open in a short time, at least not in the next day or so," Bhatt said.
There are at least 90 flooded roads throughout the state, Markell said.
Some coastal towns are essentially cut off because of flooded roads.
DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara said, "We've had issues in Delaware City, Augustine Beach, and Woodland Beach. We're working with city of New Castle, working with them to get the water out. There was a lot of dune damage, but the good news is, because of the project we did, we're not seeing the same damage in Rehoboth and Lewes, as you are in other states."
"The power outage issue is primarily up in New Castle County, but there are plenty of other areas in Sussex and Kent counties as well," he said. "Traffic lights may be out in some areas."
For information about assistance after the storm, Markell recommended that residents call the Delaware Help Line, 1-800-464-HELP.
Also, the Division of Public Health has set up a phone line to call starting at noon Tuesday about health concerns such as spoiled food, potentially contaminated water, water well questions, and mold issues. The number is 1-866-408-1899.
REPORT FROM 8:30 A.M. TUESDAY
Following an examination of road conditions by state highway crews and discussions with emergency management officials, Gov. Jack Markell has scaled back the state's driving restrictions throughout the Delaware.
Effective Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., Markell lifted the Level 2 driving restriction and instituted a Level 1 driving warning throughout the state.
State offices and schools remain closed Tuesday.
Although motorists are permitted to return to the roads, drivers are advised that many highways and streets remain closed as a result of storm-related damage.
Highway crews, troopers and other emergency officials began inspections of road conditions in early morning hours and will continue those efforts throughout the day. Because of heavy flooding and other damage, the previously-designated evacuation areas are still in effect and should not be entered at this time.
A complete list of the evacuation areas statewide can be found on the DEMA home page. The DEMA home page also includes maps of the Evacuation Areas for New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County.
The high tide cycle that will move up the ocean coast and then the Delaware Bay and River between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. today may cause additional flooding and closures. The most recent listing of road closures and roads with water on them is set forth below, and may be found on DelDOT's home page.
"Without minimizing the very real damage and destruction caused by this storm, particularly in our coastal areas, it thankfully appears that Hurricane Sandy did not cause the widespread statewide damage that the forecasts predicted as recently as yesterday afternoon," said Markell. "For that reason, it is appropriate to scale back driving restrictions across our state, while keeping the evacuation order in place in our hard-hit coastal and other flood-prone areas."
Law enforcement and local officials will be preventing access to evacuated areas until assessments can be made. City and county officials will decide when access to those areas will be allowed.
"Although travel will be possible through much of the state this morning, this is not a signal for people with homes and businesses in the seriously flooded areas to head back to check on damage. Access will be restricted in those areas while damage is assessed," Markell said.
The state is remaining under a Level 1 driving warning due to numerous road closures for flooding, signal outages, and remaining impacts from both the storm and this morning's high tides that may cause additional flooding in some areas.
All drivers are urged to exercise particular caution in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and to be mindful of the road closures set forth below. There are also at least 16 traffic signals that are out, so motorists should be careful.
DART Transit Service will begin a "Saturday" level of service at 10 a.m. DART Paratransit will resume at 10 a.m., however will only be making medical trips. Tolls on I-95 will resume at noon and on Route 1 at 3 p.m.
REPORT FROM 6 A.M. TUESDAY
Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast near Atlantic City, N.J. Monday at about 8 p.m., and then weakened as it moved west over northern New Castle County.
High winds brought down electric lines throughout Delaware, while more than 8 inches of rain, tidal flows, and "Nor'easter" winds caused flooding in many areas
The storm has caused a reported 13 deaths in the U.S. so far, according to WBOC-TV from Salisbury, Md., including two in Maryland.
The rain total Monday at Dover Air Force Base measured 8.48 inches.
An estimated 44,000 customers in Delaware are without power this morning, according to Delmarva Power and the Delaware Electric Co-op.
The power outage map on the Delmarva Power website showed the greatest number of outages in the Wilmington and Newark areas in New Castle County. About 38,000 customers county-wide haven't had service restored.
Smaller outages have been reported in Kent and Sussex counties, with a concentration in the Lewes area.
According to the Delmarva Power website, the company "has worked extensively to prepare for the ferocious winds and rains that are impacting the mid-Atlantic region as a result of Hurricane Sandy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued a federal emergency declaration for jurisdictions in our region as immense destruction, extreme flooding and millions of power outages are expected throughout the northeastern United States. Maryland and Delaware governors have declared states of emergency because of the expected unprecedented devastation."
"All available utility crews east of the Rocky Mountains have been committed to the restoration effort on the Eastern seaboard. Pepco Holdings Inc. (PHI), Delmarva Power's parent company, has secured line personnel from states as far away as Texas and Mississippi. A significant number of outside line personnel have already arrived at Delmarva Power's staging grounds at the Fisker Plant in Wilmington, Del., and the Perdue Shorebirds stadium in Salisbury, Md. Crews will be deployed based upon greatest damage and need," according to the website.
In addition, Delmarva Power has 423 internal and contract line personnel and 292 tree removal personnel on the system and ready for quick mobilization. More than 375 customer call representatives are available to answer calls, 232 assessors are ready to identify storm damage, and approximately 650 support personnel are working in their special storm response roles.
To report a power outage, Delmarva Power customers in New Castle County should call 1-800-898-8042; in Kent and Sussex counties, call 1-800-898-8045.
"Delmarva Power has committed all its resources to Hurricane Sandy. We are actively working this storm so we can restore power as quickly and safely as possible," said Gary Stockbridge, Delmarva Power Region President. "However, based on the unprecedented damage that is expected, the restoration period is likely to extend more than a week."
Federal safety regulations do not allow overhead work to be performed in sustained winds of 35 mph or more, Stockbridge said. As a result, the initiation of damage assessment and restoration work will depend on when the storm passes and winds subside. A thorough damage assessment is critical to deploying resources most effectively and efficiently.
For their safety, Delmarva Power urges the public to stay clear of wires hanging loose from poles or lying on the ground. Customers should not attempt to move them. Customers should call Delmarva Power to make the wires safe.
Delaware Electric Co-op reported 1,910 customers were without power as of 8:30 p.m. Monday night.
Driving restrictions are still in effect as of 5 a.m. in Delaware for all non-essential personnel.
PREVIOUS REPORT - MONDAY EVENING
As the center of Hurricane Sandy is approaching the Delaware Bay region, Sussex County officials are anticipating 40 to 60 mph winds and gusts upward of 65 to 75 mph. Damage, flooding and power outages are now occurring throughout the state.
"This is it," said Joseph Thomas, director of the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center. "This is what the forecasts told us to expect, and this is what everyone hopefully is now prepared for."
At a press conference in Rehoboth Beach at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Gov. Jack Markell reported that about 650 people are now staying in the seven evacuation shelters in Delaware, and about 6,600 homes and businesses have lost power as Hurricane Sandy approaches.
"The issue is, the storm has not actually hit us yet," said Markell. "That's the challenge. We had to close Route 1 last night between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach when the storm was still hundreds of miles away. We're seeing something that is very significant."
Markell said the immediate concerns are sustained winds of 40 of 50 mph with gusts of 70 mph and more, along with the tidal cycle that will bring the highest tides in Delaware coastal areas between 9 p.m. and midnight, with potential flooding. The high winds have the potential to knock out power lines or blow trees or limbs into power lines.
"These outages could last awhile," said Markell. "The utility crews won't be able to send crews out in the bucket trucks while the winds are still high."
So far, the bridges over the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal are still open, but Markell said they would be closed with two hours notice if sustained winds are over 50 mph.
Markell and Delaware Emergency Management Agency officials have been discussing plans with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials now that President Barack Obama has declared an emergency in Delaware, authorizing help from FEMA.
He said 300 troops from the National Guard are standing by to assist in emergencies.
If people need help getting to a shelter, they should try calling the Delaware Help Line at 1-800-464-HELP or 911.
However, if people are calling from the coastal area that should already have been evacuated, "We can't promise we can get to them," Markell said.
The governor thanked citizens for cooperating with the driving ban that has been in place for non-essential personnel since 5 a.m. this morning, and which remains in effect.
He also thanked all the state agencies, emergency workers, and local crews who have been assisting with the planning and preparations ahead of the storm, and with the evacuations and the shelters.
"We know we'll get through this, but we've got to stay together, stick together, and work together," Markell said.
He also announced that state offices will be closed Tuesday until at least 4:30 p.m.
As Hurricane Sandy makes its way closer to the Delaware coast, residents throughout the state are beginning to experience power outages and emergency shelters are filling up.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm is currently about 200 miles from Atlantic City, N.J. The center of the storm is expected to make landfall along or just south of the southern New Jersey coast this evening or tonight, with maximum sustained winds measured at up to 90 miles per hour.
PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS EMERGENCY DECLARATION FOR DELAWARE
President Barack Obama Monday declared that an emergency exists in the State of Delaware and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the conditions resulting from Hurricane Sandy beginning on Oct. 27, and continuing.
The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all counties in the State of Delaware.
Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.
W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Regis Leo Phelan as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.
"LEVEL TWO" STATE OF EMERGENCY REMAINS IN EFFECT
As residents in flood-prone and low-lying Delaware communities were evacuating Sunday, Gov. Jack Markell issued a "Level Two" State of Emergency, barring non-essential emergency workers from Delaware's roadways beginning at 5 a.m. Monday.
A "Level One" warning, which urges drivers to stay off the road, was issued at 7 p.m. Sunday.
According to state law, a "Level Two Driving Restriction" means "that no person shall operate a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways other than essential personnel."
Essential personnel includes those employees necessary to maintain the core functions of government and maintain health and safety by providing utility services, healthcare services, and food and fuel deliveries.
For Monday morning, forecasters now expect 30 to 40 mile per hour sustained winds and heavy driving rain, which will make driving visibility very poor. Traffic managers say traffic signals will be hard to see because of the sustained wind. At 40 mile per hour winds, DelDOT and other responders are not supposed to be out of their vehicles. At 50 miles per hour, which may be reached Monday afternoon, bridges over the Chesapeake and Delaware canal will close.
"People have had several days to be out preparing for the storm's arrival. When Sandy hits on Monday, they should be at home or if necessary a shelter to wait out the worst of the storm," Markell said. "Do not put yourself on the road. Do not put yourself – and those who may need to rescue you – at risk."
A violation of Level Two driving restriction has a penalty of a fine of up to $115 on first offense, and a fine of up to $200 and up to 30 days in jail for subsequent offenses.
On Saturday, Markell declared a State of Emergency and ordered a mandatory evacuation of flood-prone areas. Earlier this evening, when the evacuation period had ended, Markell implemented a Level One driving warning, encouraging motorists to stay off the roads and businesses to keep employees home.
In Sussex County, officials say conditions started to deteriorate late Sunday. The earliest effects of the storm began Sunday morning, with flooding already near Slaughter Beach, Prime Hook, Oak Orchard, and along the State Route 1 corridor at the Indian River Inlet bridge.
"There is little doubt now that Hurricane Sandy is going to greatly affect us here in Sussex County, Delaware, and throughout the mid-Atlantic region," said Sussex County Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph Thomas. "This is a major event, one that could rival the historic Storm of 1962. Just like that storm, Sandy could be remembered for decades to come."
Earlier in the day, after meeting with emergency workers at the Delaware Emergency Management Agency building near Smyrna, Markell warned that residents should also prepare for the possibility of being without power for several days if the storm is as powerful as is expected.
Markell, DelDOT Secretary Bhatt, and Lt. Gov. Matt Denn met with Gene Donaldson, director of the Transportation Management Center.
Donaldson said, "From this location, we have the capability to control computerized traffic signals and message boards, monitor the major roads, bridges, and intersections throughout the state, and distribute information about the latest conditions."
The information is available to the public on the DelDOT website, www.deldot.gov.
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST
MONDAY NIGHT UPDATE
According to the National Weather Service at 7 p.m. Monday, the storm system, which has now been designated as a "Post Tropical Cyclone," is expected to make landfall within the hour.
The maximum sustained winds have decreased slightly to 85 mph. The storm was about 20 miles from Atlantic City, N.J.
The storm is expected to turn west-northwest Monday night.The center of the storm is expected to make landfall along or just south of the southern New Jersey coast.
Rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches are expected over portions of the central Mid-Atlantic states including the Delmarva Peninsula with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches possible.
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the high tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded.
DELMARVA POWER PREPARED FOR HURRICANE'S ARRIVAL
Delmarva Power President Gary Stockbridge said Monday afternoon that additional crews have been activated from across the country to aid in power restoration as Hurricane Sandy makes landfall Monday night.
"We're still envisioning landfall around midnight," Stockbridge told reporters during a media briefing Monday afternoon. "We're seeing some o the outages mounting. We're seeing around 7,000 total customers without power in Maryland, and 3,000 in our Delaware territories.
"The most important message that we want to get out is that we do expect this restoration to go over a week in length," he added. "This is not something our customers in this region have seen in a while. We want to stress that it will likely be over a week before we get all of our customers back in."
Delmarva Power will assess the damage as the storm ends and prioritize restoration, beginning with the public health/large infrastructure backbone, then large groupings of outages and last, individual customers.
Stockbridge said he also wanted to stress that no matter what the weather is looking like, to call in to report outages and down wires. He urged residents to stay away from down wires as they could be dangerous.
If you see wires down, do not go near it," he said. "Call us to attend to it. "
Delmarva Power also stressed that natural gas customers in New Castle County be mindful of the danger of flood water as a result of the hurricane. Many gas appliances, such as hot water heaters, house heaters, clothes dryers, stoves and ovens are located at the bottom level or basement of the home. In severe weather, these areas can become flooded and damage the appliances and extinguish the pilot light.
In the event of a flood, residents, if they can do so safely, should turn their appliance gas valve off. Delmarva Power officials said residents should refer to the manufacturer's instructions on how to turn the valve off.
Officials also recommend that customers do NOT turn their gas service off at the meter unless there is an emergency. This will shut off gas to the entire home or business.
If customers notice a strong natural gas odor, or there is other evidence of a gas leak, they should not enter the premises or should leave immediately. From a safe place call Delmarva Power's natural gas emergency line at (302) 454-0317.
To report a power outage or for additional assistance the following numbers are available:
New Castle County: (800) 898-8042
Kent/Sussex County: (800) 898-8045.
PREVIOUSLY REPORTED: EVACUATION ORDER INCLUDES BUSINESSES
The current evacuation order is for flood-prone areas within three-quarters of a mile from the coast, Markell said, and all residents in those areas are encouraged to leave by 8 p.m. tonight.
Markell had extended the evacuation to include businesses.
"We updated the executive order to include businesses. Businesses located in the evacuation area need to close today by 6 p.m.," Markell said Sunday.
Markell urges residents and businesses to follow the order.
"If you live in an evacuation area, and you don't evacuate, first responders may not be able to reach you in an emergency," he said. "You may be cut off.
"This storm is severe and its potential damages significant. It is critical that residents in areas of greatest risk leave those areas now before the storm's full force is felt and lives are put at greater risk," Markell said.
State offices will be closed Monday, according to the governor's office.
First responders, medical services and other essential personnel, food and fuel deliveries, members of the media, public utilities and other businesses necessary to maintaining the health and safety of the people in Delaware are exempted from this requirement.
PORTION OF ROUTE 1 CLOSED AT BEACH
Route 1 between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach has already been closed due to water on the road, Donaldson said.
Meanwhile, beginning Monday, DART First State fixed-route bus and paratransit services have been suspended until further notice. The only exception will be essential medical paratransit services.
In addition, SEPTA Regional Rail services will not operate in New Castle County.
ROUTE 1 TOLLS SUSPENDED
Starting at noon today, tolls won't be collected on Route 1 and all traffic will be directed to use the EZ Pass lanes.
"That was a lesson that we learned during [Hurricane] Irene," Bhatt said. "Even though tolls weren't being collected, there was still some delays" as drivers fanned out to use all available lanes and then had to merge back together.
OTHER TRANSPORTATION CONCERNS
Along Route 9 in New Castle County, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources are working on dikes to build up areas to prevent flooding, Markell said.
The National Guard has been deployed to the evacuation shelters that have been designated for people with medical conditions — William Penn High School and Cape Henlopen High School — in case someone needs emergency transportation to a hospital.
DelDOT Secretary Bhatt asked for drivers to follow signs and instructions during the evacuation, including the electronic message boards that have been posted along evacuation routes.
"We're asking for drivers to please respect the traffic barricades. They are there for a reason: it's not safe," Bhatt said.
If traffic signals are out, an intersection should be approached as if it were a four-way stop, Bhatt said.
PREPARE FOR POWER OUTAGES
"It's really important people prepare to be without power for an extended period of time," said Markell at this morning's press conference. "When you combine the wet ground with the high winds, it could take awhile" for crews to be able to restore electricity.
As of Sunday morning, The DelDOT had closed Del. Route 1 is closed in both directions between Dewey Beach to Bethany Beach because of high water. DelDOT suggests motorists use Del. 26 heading northbound and Del. 24 heading southbound as alternate routes.
Shelters have been open in all three counties since noon, Sunday. The governor advised residents who will be seeking shelter to bring with them sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, as well as any books and games to keep themselves occupied.
Seven shelters are open throughout the state.
Locations include: William Penn High School; Middletown High School; Smyrna Middle School; Dover High School; Milford Middle School; Cape Henlopen High School; Indian River High School.
Jamie Turner, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, said approximately 50,000 people across the state could be affected by this evacuation.
"We're looking at winds up to 60 miles per hour, just below hurricane gusts, extremely heavy rains running from 10 inches in Sussex County to 3 or 4 inches in New Castle County," Turner said. "This is all subject to the swings in the storm itself."
Turner said Delaware residents should expect major power outages that could last for several hours or days, as well as major flooding in areas near the coast.
"It really depends on how long this storm stays close to Delaware," he said. "This is a very slow moving storm. It's going to be something that a lot of people have never had the opportunity to see in Delaware."
Markell urged residents who live within 3/4 miles of a coastal area to follow the evacuation order.
"8 p.m. Sunday should be the end of the evacuation, not the beginning," he said. "Because of the flooding that is expected, it's going to be very challenging for first responders to get to people. "We'll be a lot more successful if people take responsibility and listen to these evacuation orders."
Specific areas of evacuation included:
Sussex County Delaware Bay Communities:
Prime Hook Beach
Lewes Beach, east of the Rehoboth Lewes canal
Sussex County Ocean Coastal Communities:
Those in Sussex ocean communities south of the Indian River Inlet should travel west along major arteries (Route 26 and 54) to U.S. 113 to leave the area rather than north on Route 1
Flood-prone areas within 3/4 of a mile of the coast in the following communities:
Sussex County Inland Bay Communities:
Areas surrounding the Rehoboth Bay, Indian River and Little Assawoman Bay
Flood-prone areas south of Route 24 (John J. Williams Highway) including Angola, Long Neck and Oak Orchard
Flood-prone areas along Route 26 (Vines Creek Road and Atlantic Avenue)
Flood-prone areas along Route 54 (Lighthouse Road)
Sussex County Western Communities:
Flood-prone areas in close proximity to the Nanticoke and Broad Creek Rivers
Kent County Delaware Bay Communities:
Pickering Beach, including any homes east of 799 Pickering Beach Rd.
Kitts Hummock Beach, and all addresses above 2123 Kitts Hummock Rd.
Bowers Beach, including any homes east of Old Bowers Rd.
South Bowers Beach
Big Stone Beach
Port Mahon Road, any address above 900
New Castle County, City of New Castle:
Washington Park Subdivision
City of Wilmington, from the Delaware River to Fourth Street
Penn Valley subdivision
New Castle County, City of Delaware City:
All houses east of Second Street
The 100 block of Fifth Street
All of Delaware City Mobile Home Park
All of Polktown
Other New Castle County Coastal Communities:
Town of Port Penn
Any residences South of Augustine Beach and East of Silver Run Road/Route 9
Delaware's Secretary of Transportation Shailen Bhatt said as of right now tolls in Delaware will not be disabled, but that could change if traffic levels call for it Sunday.
The state has implemented the Hurricane Sandy information helpline. For questions, call (800) 464-4357.
DEMA and relevant partners statewide are in communication with the National Weather Service and will continue to regularly monitor conditions. According to the governor's office, no decision has been made yet about government closures for Monday or Tuesday.
DIVISION OF PUBLIC HEALTH OPENED MEDICAL SHELTERS SUNDAY
The Delaware Division of Public Health opened two medical needs shelters at noon on Sunday at William Penn High School, 713 E. Basin Road, New Castle, and Cape Henlopen High School, 1250 Kings Highway, Lewes.
A partnership with the Delaware National Guard, the Medical Needs Shelters provide safe and temporary housing to individuals who require support with their medical needs. These shelters are for people who cannot be accommodated in regular shelters.
Individuals at the shelters can expect sleeping accommodations, food and trained medical staff who can assist with medical needs. Medical shelters cannot take the place of a hospital and are intended for those who have minor medical conditions that are stable and require daily assistance. Examples include assistance with medicine administration, changing wound dressings or helping the oxygen dependent.
Caregivers must accompany the individual to the Medical Needs Shelter. Items to bring include:Durable medical equipment and oxygen tanks; All medication and supplies; Personal items; Any special foods or liquids for dietary needs; Important documents such as phone numbers and insurance information.
WESLEY, DELAWARE TECH AND DELAWARE STATE UNIVERSITY TO CLOSE MONDAY
All campuses of Delaware Technical Community College will be closed
Monday and Tuesday, said Delaware Tech spokeswoman Christine Gillan. In addition, the Sussex County Today & Tomorrow Conference scheduled for Wednesday has been canceled.
Delaware State University has canceled all operations – classes, offices, etc. – for Monday, with the exception of the services that are needed for the students that have remained on campus.
DSU will continue to provide services (residential hall, dining hall, etc.) to students who remain on campus throughout the storm event. However, students who plan to go home are encouraged to leave as soon as possible, as the weather conditions are projected to start deteriorating by Sunday.
All employees and students should continue to monitor the DSU website, University email and DSU Emergency Alert for updates concerning the status of University operations on Tuesday and beyond. Updates can also be obtained by calling the DSU Emergency Weather phone line at (302) 857-7669.
Wesley College spokeswoman Jessica Cook also confirmed that Wesley College will be was closed on Monday.
STATE PARKS TO CLOSED AT 5 P.M. SUNDAY
All Delaware State Parks and DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife facilities – including state wildlife areas – closed at 5 p.m. Sunday, in anticipation of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy, according to Michael Globetti from DNREC Public Affairs.
Division of Fish & Wildlife closures include duck blinds that are located in the wildlife areas. All wildlife areas, state boat ramps and fishing access areas will be closed until further notice.
Delaware State Parks likewise will be closed until further notice. Additionally, all Delaware State Parks campgrounds, cabins and cottages will close at 1 p.m. Sunday, the normal checkout time, and they too will remain shut until further notice. Anyone who had made reservations at the campgrounds, cabins or cottages for Sunday and beyond will receive refunds due to the storm-related closure, and will have been notified in advance by Parks' reservation system.
DEL. DEPT. OF SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY REPORT
Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Lewis D. Schiliro urges everyone to use this time to review their household emergency plan and to check emergency supplies.
"It is very important for the public to also monitor the weather and be aware of pending effects of a storm well in advance in order to plan and act safely. "Have a plan, get a kit and stay informed," Schiliro said. "We want everyone to have food and water for at least three days, batteries for lights and radios and a means of charging cell phones. Remember that part of your emergency plan is to have a destination in mind if you have to evacuate."
"Our citizens should also check on their neighbors who may be in need of assistance," Schiliro said.
Additional things to consider in planning for an emergency include food and medications for those that might have special dietary or pharmaceutical needs and/or appropriate equipment for family members who might use assistive technology, according to Kimberly H. Chandler, media spokeswoman for Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Families also need to remember the needs of pets and stock adequate food and supplies as well as appropriate carriers or restraints should evacuation be required.
A very important component of each household emergency plan is to have important documents like medical records, deeds or leases, insurance records and birth certificates copied and stored where they can be easily accessed and packed in case of evacuation.
Schiliro reminds all best assist emergency management officials by staying informed and following recommendations and instructions.
For information on making a household emergency plan and building a supply kit, visit dema.delaware.gov, Ready.gov or Listo.gov. For regional weather updates, visit http://weather.gov/phi
PREPAREDNESS TIPS FROM DELAWARE STATE POLICE
The Delaware State Police continue to plan and make preparations for the possible arrival of Hurricane Sandy.
"We are working with all local and state agencies to monitor and assess the most current weather forecasts as to determine potential issues which may negatively impact the motoring public, and to establish the most efficient means to mitigate any preventable problems," said State Police Superintendent Col. Robert M. Coupe in a press release from State Police Director Public Information Sergeant Paul G. Shavack.
State Police are urging the public to exercise caution during Hurricane Sandy. Prior to the storm, make sure:
• to store drinking water, canned food and nonperishable items;
• secure your pets indoors and any loose items around homes (as they travel onto the roadways and impede traffic);
• have vehicles in good working order with sufficient fuel;
• adhere to advisories issued by authorities.
Additional safety tips include:
• Stay Put - Avoid driving in heavy storms unless absolutely necessary. Often, injuries and deaths occur during and in the aftermath of such storms. Sightseers impeding roadways cause obstacles for emergency personnel responding to those in need.
• Slow Down - Decrease your vehicle speed during inclement weather to avoid hydroplaning and to account for increased stopping time. Periods of heavy rain may necessitate traveling at speeds below the posted speed limits.
• Be cautious of high winds – Windy conditions adversely affect all vehicles, particularly high profile vehicles, such as buses and trucks, as well as smaller vehicles such as motorcycles. Gusty wind makes driving difficult, especially when it is rapidly changing in speed and direction.
• Pay attention. – You may come up on an intersection that is no longer controlled by a functioning traffic control device. If a law enforcement officer is directing traffic, follow their directions. Otherwise, treat the intersection as you would treat an intersection governed by a four-way stop sign.
DELDOT PREPARES FOR MAJOR STORM
Across the state, Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) crews are working to minimize any possible traffic hazards if the storm strikes the area.
"The men and women of DelDOT are spending today doing all they can to prepare for the possibility of a major storm striking Delaware, and many will be working over the weekend to ensure the state's transportation system is as secure as possible," said Jim Westhoff, DelDOT Community Relations Officer.
DelDOT storm preparation activities include:
• Maintenance crews are clearing storm drains of brush and debris along major roads that are prone to flooding.
• Construction crews have begun removing un-needed equipment that could become a problem during the storm. This includes traffic cones and barrels. They are doing this to eliminate any possible hazards resulting from high winds.
• In Sussex County near the beaches, crews and contractors are removing a number of overhead signs (a list of those locations is below).
• Crews are also securing temporary traffic signs at construction locations, so these will resist being blown over by wind.
• DelDOT is requesting that political campaigns do what they can to remove political signs along state roadways prior to the arrival of the storm; especially large signs that may become airborne.
• If wind speeds reach a sustained 40 mph, DeDOT will begin pulling its forces off state roads. If winds reach a sustained 50 mph, DelDOT will begin closing major bridges throughout the state.
Construction projects this weekend:
• Work on the Route 1/I-95 interchange will proceed as planned this evening, but will be suspended tomorrow morning.
• Repaving work on some lanes on I-95 will proceed tonight as planned.
• The planned closing of I-95 at the Route 202 will not take place this weekend as previously announced. The work will be rescheduled for a future weekend.
• Other than in special circumstances, such as the previously described work on I-95 and RT 1, DelDOT contractors typically don't work during the weekends.
DART and Paratransit
• DART First State operates in all three counties in Delaware, and is preparing for a possible storm event for next week. A special management personnel matrix has been developed to insure adequate staff coverage.
• Paratransit customers are urged to stay tuned to weather reports and be prepared for service interruptions should weather conditions deteriorate.
• If a State of Emergency is declared, fixed route and paratransit service will be suspended. However, if such a declaration occurs mid-day, DART will continue to operate as long as safe road conditions and resources permit. In the event of any service interruption, DART will issue Rider Alerts to riders who subscribe to the service, and to the media.
• DART Operations employees are considered essential personnel and DART maintains a list of operators who can be readily available for extra duty.
• Customers should stay tuned to Rider Alerts, DART's website and local media for further updates
• DelDOT's bridge staff is gearing up for inspection operations throughout the state. Both DelDOT and DNREC are lowering water levels at various dams to reduce the threat of flood waters.
Indian River Inlet Bridge and Route 1 at the beach:
• Beach and dune erosion remains an ongoing concern for Route 1 throughout the inlet area. However, the new approach roads to the Indian River Inlet Bridge are approximately 100 feet further west than the approaches to the old bridge.
• Due to probable flooding and / or high winds, it is likely that Route 1 from Dewey to Bethany Beach, including the Indian River Inlet River Bridge, will be closed at some point during the storm.
• All state toll roads are operating as usual and there are no plans to waive tolls at this time.
Closures after the storm:
• Once the storm is over, some roads and bridges may remain closed due to concern for their safety. The public is instructed not to remove DelDOT barricades on any roads and bridges, even if flood water subsides. These closures are necessary because they must be inspected and possibly repaired prior to reopening.
List of overhead signs being removed in Sussex County:
As a precautionary measure, DelDOT crews and contractors are removing 12 large, span-wire overhead signs in Sussex County. This work is scheduled to start Saturday morning and continue throughout the day until all of the identified large signs have been removed. The span wires and flashing lights will remain in place. In most cases, only the right shoulders will require lane closures that will last 30 minutes or less per sign.
"While we understand that there are multiple overhead span wire signs," Westoff said, "these were deemed the most critical as they are located along the state's coast line and are the largest in nature:"
• Gas up your car since power outages may leave service station without the ability to pump fuel out of the ground.
• Clear your windshield and windows on the inside and outside, and ensure that your window wipers are in good shape.
• Be sure tires are properly inflated.
• Check that all lights are working properly.
• Remove excess items from the car and trunk, and replace them with an emergency road service kit which includes: flashlight with extra batteries; reflective triangles; fire extinguisher; jumper cables; first aid kit; jack and spare tire; rain gear or extra clothing; and pocket knife.
During the storm:
• Heed the warnings of emergency officials and observe road closure signs – do not attempt to drive on closed roads or into evacuated areas.
• Turn on windshield wipers and head lights (not just daytime running lights) as soon as rain begins to fall. Virginia law dictates that headlights must be on when your wipers are on due to inclement weather.
• If windows begin to fog, turn on the car's defroster. Air conditioning may be comfortable, but warmer temperatures clear windshields of steam more quickly.
• Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility.
• Slow down. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. Rain decreases visibility and increases braking distances.
• Increase following distances. Normal dry pavement following distance (2-3) seconds should be increased to 8 seconds or more when driving on slippery surfaces. While driving, train your eyes farther down the road than normal, so you will be able to anticipate changes and adjust your course gradually.
• Driving in other vehicle's tracks can improve traction and help you avoid hydroplaning.
• Drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles must remember they are not immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces. Four-wheel drive cars are just as likely to lose traction on wet roads as any other vehicle.
• Be wary of high wind conditions. Larger trucks are more affected by high winds, so give them plenty of room on the roadways.
• Watch out for debris or downed wires on the roadways. If in a vehicle that is in contact with a downed power line, the best rule is to stay there until help arrives. If there is an imminent danger, such a fire, stand on the door frame or edge of the vehicle and jump clear with both feet at the same time. Do not make contact with anything on the vehicle so that your body does not become a pathway for the electricity to reach the earth.
• Do not attempt to cross any standing water on the road as just six inches can make you lose control of your car and two feet of water will carry away most cars.
• Try to avoid bridges and roads that are known to flood. Cross them only if there is little standing or streaming water.
• If you are forced to stop in traffic due to poor visibility, turn on emergency flashers immediately.
After the storm:
• If your car has been damaged, take pictures of the damage for insurance claims and contact your service agent.
• If power lines are on your vehicle, do not attempt to remove them nor touch the vehicle. Contact the local power company for assistance.
• If the vehicle has been flooded, contact a qualified automotive technician before attempting to start a flood-damaged car. Have the technician inspect all mechanical components including the engine, transmission, steering system, axles, and fuel system for water contamination. Also have the technician drain floodwater from contaminated systems and flush with clean water or a solvent, as appropriate. All contaminated fluids, such as oil, transmission fluid, and engine coolant should be drained and replaced.
SUSSEX COUNTY EMERGENCY OPERATIONS RELEASES VIDEO UPDATE
The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center released this Youtube video update Monday morning for Sussex County residents. More information is available at www.sussexcountyde.gov.