1630 Hours, Tuesday, March 5, 2013: Sussex County emergency officials continue to monitor the development of a late-winter storm that threatens coastal and low-lying areas with significant flooding, and are encouraging residents in those communities to move now before the water rises.
The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood warning and a high wind warning for Sussex County, beginning Wednesday, March 6, and lasting through Thursday, March 7. A storm system moving through the Midwest is expected to intensify into a nor’easter off the Virginia coast early Wednesday, swelling tides at least 4 feet above normal and sending heavy rains and high winds ashore. The storm could even wrap up with a coating of snow, possibly 1 to 3 inches, before slowly moving out to sea early Thursday morning.
While no evacuations have been ordered, residents in communities along the Delaware Bay, including Prime Hook and Broadkill Beach, as well as around the Inland Bays, particularly Angola and Oak Orchard, should be mindful of the forecasts and prepare to move to higher ground now while roads are clear. Strong easterly and northeasterly winds over the next 36 hours will push water ashore and into flood-prone areas.
“This nor’easter has the potential to rival some tropical storms and hurricanes we’ve seen in the past when it comes to flooding, it’s expected to be that strong,” Sussex County Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph L. Thomas said. “Areas that have historically flooded stand a very good, almost certain, chance of flooding in this event, which could last through several tide cycles. So that is why we are encouraging residents in these areas to think about going somewhere else.”
Forecasters with the National Weather Service predict wind-swollen tides could span Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning before subsiding, and could reach levels of 8 feet above the mean lower low water (MLLW) mark. That kind of flooding was last seen during Superstorm Sandy last October, the 1998 nor’easter, and as far back as Hurricane Gloria in 1985.
Meantime, strong, prolonged winds off the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay – with gusts as high as 55 mph – could pile water onshore and in back bays, scouring beaches and flooding coastal communities. High winds, coupled with an already-saturated ground, could bring down trees and knock out powers lines throughout the county.
Emergency officials urge the public to be prepared and to monitor local forecasts for any changes or updates. Residents in low-lying areas should act now by moving vehicles, clearing storm drains, and checking submersible pumps.
For updates, stay tuned to local media outlets, the Sussex County EOC Web site, sussexcountyde.gov/emergency-preparedness, and be sure to follow the County’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, www.facebook.com/SussexCountyDE, twitter.com/sussexde_govt and twitter.com/SussexCtyDE_EOC.
Media calls should be directed to EOC spokeswoman Debra Jones at (302) 855-7801 or Sussex County Communications Director Chip Guy at (302) 854-5000.