Limited state of emergency in Sussex County, many roads flooded

DOVER — After uncertain predictions Thursday that had Hurricane Joaquin passing right by Delaware, updated projections have the storm missing the First State entirely. Nonetheless, the state continues to be pounded by adverse conditions from a Nor’easter, particularly in Sussex County, where a limited state of emergency was put in place.

Currently in the Bahamas, the storm is expected to move up along the East Coast but remain well offshore over the next four days. The National Weather Service has Joaquin not making landfall in the United States.

For the First State, that’s a welcome break, especially as wind and rain from a smaller and unrelated storm continue to pound the area. A wave of low pressure has been moving along a stalled front located just offshore, producing rain, NWS meteorologist Lance Franck said Thursday.

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Delaware is in a coastal flood warning until Tuesday and rain is expected to continue all day today. Saturday has a 70 percent chance of precipitation, and Sunday has a 50 percent probability of rain, according to the NWS. Delaware received about three-quarters of an inch of rain Thursday and could get around 2 inches over the ensuing days.

Wind is expected today and through the weekend, mostly staying around 25 mph, although gusts could reach into the low 30s tonight and Sunday.

Even if Hurricane Joaquin missed Delaware, officials have advised individuals to be cautious. Coastal flooding could threaten many areas in Sussex County, and state agencies were preparing to respond if need be.

Gov. Jack Markell declared a limited state of emergency for Sussex County around noon. State offices are open and no driving restrictions have been put in place, but Primehook Road in Milton, River Road in Oak Orchard and Front Street in Milford have been closed. Dozens of roads in Kent and Sussex have water on them. The speed limit on Interstate 495 has been lowered to 55 mph. DART First State buses are on normal schedules statewide.

Residents along the lower Delaware Bay should be cautious and consider evacuating, the governor’s office urged. Problematic areas include Slaughter Beach, Prime Hook Beach, Broadkill Beach, Lewes Beach, Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, inland bay communities and flood-prone areas near the Nanticoke and Broad Creek rivers and along John J. Williams Highway, Vines Creek Road, Atlantic Avenue and Lighthouse Road.

“Though predicted rainfall totals have dropped and the expected path of Hurricane Joaquin remains well off-coast, high winds and coastal flooding will significantly impact Sussex County,” the governor said in a statement. “State and local officials are taking the necessary steps to prepare for possible evacuations and road closures and the National Guard has been deployed to Kent and Sussex counties to support those efforts, as needed. Residents in flood-prone areas of the state should prepare accordingly and continue to monitor communications from state and local agencies for updates.”

Some schools were closed today and others let out early.

The Department of Transportation had prepared a number of loaders near coastal areas in case sand and rain washed away roads, while Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control personnel had done what they could to fortify the beaches and were closely monitoring the conditions along the shore. DelDOT crews have been working since Thursday to clear roadways and drains and place signs warning of flooded streets.

Meteorologists over the past two days had spoken of the potential for the East Coast to be hit hard by the hurricane but had also stressed its path was far from certain.

While the hurricane’s threat has been lessened, it is not completely removed, the NWS stressed. Rain and wind from the hurricane could still have an impact on Delaware, especially as the current storm stands as an obstacle to preparedness.

Overall though, it appears Delaware — and the rest of the East Coast — will be lucky.

Many events had been canceled or moved due to the storms, including Friday’s Drive Sober 125 at Dover International Speedway. The race was moved to this morning, and anyone with a ticket for either the Drive Sober 125 or the Saturday Hisense 200 will be able to attend both races.

Sunday’s AAA 400 starts at 2:30, and even if it rains, the race could possibly be run if the downpour halts by 1:30. That seems more likely today than it did Thursday.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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