Delaware residents urged to prepare for major storm

joaquin noon 930

DOVER — Delaware is bracing for a fierce storm, one that has the potential to cancel many weekend sporting and entertainment events.

Hurricane Joaquin, which the National Weather Service announced Wednesday morning had been upgraded from a tropical storm, could slam the state soon.

The hurricane would bring with it heavy rain and wind.

The storm, currently near the Bahamas, could take several different paths. One of those paths would have it passing directly over Delaware.

But, uncertainty remains.

It’s possible the storm could move out to sea and miss the United States entirely, NWS meteorologist Kristin Kline said Wednesday morning.

However, the agency cautions, the threat also remains.

“There is now also the potential for major impacts from Hurricane Joaquin affecting the region this weekend into early next week,” stated a briefing issued by the NWS around noon Wednesday.

Joaquin could move up near the East Coast over the next few days with winds between 73 and 110 miles per hour.

There’s a 70 percent chance of rain today, the NWS says. Precipitation appears to be a near certainty for Friday.
In all, Delaware could be deluged by 7 inches of rainfall over the next week, potentially exceeding the 5 inches or less most of the state received in September.

7 day rain noon 930Overnight Tuesday into Wednesday in a band of storms unrelated to Joaquin, Dover received 1.43 inches of rain, according to the NWS.

Delaware and much of the surrounding area had a hazardous weather outlook Wednesday. Flood warnings have been issued in some coastal spots by the NWS, although none of them are in Delaware at this point.

The NWS urges people to “have a plan in place should Joaquin threaten their area.”

The wind shear could weaken the hurricane, Ms. Kline said, but individuals should prepare for a bad storm.

“If the best scenario works out and it goes back to sea, then at least you had a plan in place,” she said.

For many areas, wind gusts of up to 35 mph are possible over the next several days. Near the coast, however, wind could exceed 45 mph.

Coastal area residents also should be aware of flooding and beach erosion.

Tony Pratt, administrator of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Shoreline and Waterway Management Section, said DNREC is concerned about the wind and rain carrying sand away from the beaches.

Members of the department work year-round to replenish sand by planting grass in the dunes and putting up fences. With the deluge expected over the next few days, DNREC can only do so much to prepare, but workers will be on the beaches when the weather allows, Mr. Pratt said.

Disruption

The weather report is wreaking havoc on planned events for this weekend. NASCAR races scheduled for Friday through Sunday are in jeopardy.

While a final determination will not be made by NASCAR and Dover International Speedway until the day of each event, postponement is a possibility.

If a race cannot be run, a future date could be se. However, track spokesman Gary Camp said Wednesday morning he did not know when that might be.

At this point, track officials remain optimistic, Mr. Camp added.

He urged those attending races to check online at www.doverspeedway.com/news_content/dover-weather-updates/. The website also suggests fans follow the speedway on Facebook or Twitter or download its app for updates.

An update was posted Tuesday evening in which the track stated: “As of now, we are full steam ahead with our plans for the upcoming race weekend, and we will update you here if changes must be made to the schedule as a result of the weather.”

A Wednesday afternoon statement informed readers the track continued to wait to make a determination.

In the comments below, many people have protested, calling for NASCAR to cancel the race ahead of time in anticipation of the storm.

“Just my opinion but fans get screwed over if you wait till the last minute to postpone the race,” one fan wrote. “It’s a large expense to get there and may not be able to find accommodations to stay over. I really hope NASCAR doesn’t just (try to) squeeze in a 200 lap race through rain delays without any practice sessions.”

The last time race weekend was disrupted by a major storm was 2007, when the June Autism Speaks 400 was moved from Sunday to Monday. The fall Dover race has been lucky, mostly avoiding weather-related issues.

In 2003, Hurricane Isabel caused the cancellation of Thursday and Friday’s events and resulted in low attendance Saturday and Sunday.

The haulers’ parade, when dozens of NASCAR trucks file through downtown Dover, is at risk this evening due to the weather. It was rained out last year.

The expected rain also has caused three high school games to move from Friday to today.

They are Caesar Rodney against St. Georges Tech HS at CR; Polytech at Cape Henlopen and Seaford at Indian River. The Seaford-Indian River game is at 5:30 p.m.; the other two are at 6:30.

College football has not been affected, but the adverse weather still could impact the schedule. Delaware State University hosts Morgan State Saturday, and though officials plan to play the game, the storm could force a cancellation.

Wesley College is home against Southern Virginia University Saturday, and no changes have been made thus far.

Bayhealth’s Go Pink! Health Fair set for Friday in Dover was canceled as was the Saturday Wings and Wheels event in Georgetown. A Delaware State Police ceremony in Glasgow was moved to Oct. 15.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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