Crews work on power outages, downed trees after nor’easter


Parker Rynkowski, 8, and Isabella Hamblin, 9, side down the hill at Barkers Landing on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The latest nor’easter hit power companies hardest this week with crews continuing to work Thursday to restore electricity to hundreds of homes.

Winds subsided Wednesday night easing the flood and erosion damage that could have occurred to coastal communities.

At around 11 a.m. Thursday, approximately 700 Delaware Electric Cooperative members remained without power, most in western Kent County. All the cooperative’s crews remained at work at that time, along with 10 tree trimming crews and contracted utility help.

“An area from Smyrna to west Dover to Felton received freezing rain Tuesday night which turned to heavy wet snow on Wednesday, weighing down trees,” DEC spokesman Jeremy Tucker said. “Numerous trees and branches fell onto power lines or tore down spans of wire and utility poles last night causing significant damage to our system.”

The storm caused about 5,000 DEC power outages, he said. “We expect the overwhelming majority of members to have power restored by midnight, although there could be some outages that last into (Friday) morning.

Describing the storm as major in western Kent County, Mr. Tucker said “the situation would have been a lot worse if significant ice and snow had fallen across the entire state. Thousands of homes would still be in the dark.

With so many downed trees, he said this week’s restoration effort was especially dangerous for crews.

“We also appreciate how patient members have been, especially those who have lost power for extended periods of time,” he said. “Crews are working as fast as they can and will not stop until every home served by Delaware Electric Co-op has power.”

Delmarva Power also was nearing full restoration of electrical service by late morning Thursday. More than 20,000 customers were impacted, with about 1,200 remaining just after 11 a.m.

A highly concentrated area of Townsend was impacted by falling trees and limbs cause by freezing branches, which had Delmarva Power crews working continuously for two days. Less than 500 customers were without power at 2 p.m. Thursday, and nearly all restoration was expected to be complete by early evening.

City of Dover workers push tree limbs away from wires in an alley on Bradford Street on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Delmarva Power First Line Supervisor Curt Webb said dozens of crews worked 16-hour shifts and then took eight off before starting up again. Repairing lines was relatively easy compared to all the tree-related obstructions.

“The water froze so fast that it caused extra problems in a small area,” Mr. Webb said. “Our tree crews did more than our line crews. We had to cut trees just to get to go cut trees. One truck got stuck when a tree fell in front of it and another fell in back of it.”

Mr. Webb shared advice on how linemen could best weather the long shifts: “Get good boots. If your feet aren’t comfortable then nothing is going to be comfortable.”

No injuries were reported after a tree fell on a contracted truck. Delmarva Power said it called in mutual assistance from as far away as Chicago and North Carolina.

Coastal conditions

As for flooding and erosion, DNREC Flood Program Manager Michael Powell said Wednesday’s midnight high tide didn’t worsen conditions, leaving the damage at two broken boardwalk steps and a handicap ramp in Bethany Beach that were battered by the noon high tide earlier that day.

Ultimately, Mr. Powell described beach erosion along the Atlantic Ocean as “moderate” and the Delaware Bay as “not as severe.”

In fact, he said Thursday the Bethany issues were expected given the beach replenishment needed there.

“That area was depleted going in,” he said.

The moderate beach erosion came at the Indian River Inlet and north Rehoboth Beach area, DNREC said.

The National Weather Service listed unofficial snowfall totals from observers indicating Middletown caught the most of it with 9.5 inches from Tuesday to Thursday morning. Other totals, among others, included Woodside (7.5), Dover (5.7), Harrington (5.3), Clayton (5.5), Dagsboro (4.0), Seaford (2.2) and Lewes (.7).

The year’s fourth strong nor’easter storm to hit the area brought wind, rain and beach erosion along with minor flooding to Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach and the Indian River Inlet areas on Wednesday. No major damage was reported Wednesday and Coastal Highway south of Dewey Beach remained open all day. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

Preparing for a storm that wasn’t as dire as expected, Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen said he, City Manager Donna Mitchell, Emergency Management Director Kay Sass and department heads were ready with a game plan.

A few power outages occurred and the mayor said, “We were on top of it and the electric crews were keeping the electric on. We had a few outages and they were on top of them really quickly.”

Dover’s mayor saluted “all of the city police who were patrolling in four-wheel drive vehicles, the fire department, which had volunteer crews in both stations and answered a number of calls, and the city employees who did an exemplary job keeping the streets opened up, the emergency routes open.”

While the mayor said Dover “fared fairly well in the storm. I’m still concerned. I was out at 4 o’clock (Thursday) morning. I was out checking streets and things and I’m still concerned about a number of trees that look like they might be damaged if the snow doesn’t get off of them.

“But I think we came through rather unscathed, considering what it could have been.”

Staff writer Mike Finney contributed to this story.

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