Rain total tops 10 inches in Harbeson


DOVER — Heavy rain, flooding, road closures, downed trees and multiple storm-related house fires were reported Thursday throughout the state.

According to the Delaware Environmental Observing System, the heaviest rain was concentrated in the southern part of the state, reaching a state high in Sussex County where rain surged to nearly 11 inches over a 24-hour period, as of 5:30 p.m., in the Harbeson area.

Kent and New Castle county highs were 4.83 and 2.15 inches respectively.

The Department of Transportation maintenance crews worked throughout the day to remove debris along the roadways and clear storm drains to help reduce the potential of additional flooding. But continued rainfall and saturation caused dozens of roads in the state to be closed.

“We closed roads all over, but it appears that the majority of the closures were in Sussex County,” said spokesman Jim Westhoff of DelDOT.

The Delaware Technical Community College’s Georgetown location also closed early and canceled all afternoon and evening classes and activities due to flooded roads and facility issues.

Mr. Westoff said clearing storm drains was DelDOT’s priority, but climbing wind speeds Thursday afternoon resulted in more downed trees and limbs which also needed to be cleared. The duration of road closures will depend on the weather but The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch and coastal flood warning for portions of Delaware and Northeast Maryland which remained in effect through Thursday night. The National Weather Service also forecasts that storm rainfall totals widespread will be 3 to 6 inches in Delmarva with isolated spots of 1 foot or even more over Sussex County and unsettled weather will likely continue into the weekend.

As of Thursday afternoon, DelDOT’s staff was fully deployed to meet conditions as they changed.

“We have more than 200 men and women prepared to work through the night active right now so we’re ready if it continues to rain,” said Mr. Westoff.

DelDOT stressed that drivers should always find an alternate route instead of driving through flooded areas, even if they seem shallow. They also noted that driving in heavy rain conditions requires motorists to be alert, reduce their speed and turn on their headlights. Motorists should not attempt to drive through barricaded or flooded areas at any time, as the standing water could be deeper than anticipated.

The Delaware State Fire Marshal’s office investigated three storm-related house fires in Sussex County on Wednesday night and Thursday morning that caused minor damage in one case and severe damage in the other two. Their report blamed lightning strikes for all three fires that caused a total estimated over $600,000 in property damage.

The marshal’s report stated that the first house fire, which was in Laurel started around 10 p.m. on Wednesday night. Investigators suspected that the fire started after lightning struck the area surrounding an air conditioning unit near the exterior of the home. Laurel Fire Department responded and with the assistance of Blades Fire Company, were able to extinguish the fire shortly after arriving on the scene. Damages were estimated at approximately $2,500.

Shortly afterward, at 11:42 p.m. another house fire broke out in Millsboro. Investigators determined that this fire was caused by a lighting strike in the attic area of the residence. Millsboro Fire Company needed the help of Indian River, Dagsboro, Milton, Gumboro and Georgetown Fire companies to put out the much larger fire. Property damage was estimated to be approximately $300,000.

The third house fire, which was reported a bit after 1 a.m. on Thursday in Lewes was also determined to have been caused by an attic area lightning strike. Lewes Fire Department called on Rehoboth Beach, Milton, Memorial, Indian River and Georgetown fire companies to help put out the fire. Property damage was said to be $300,000 as well.

No injuries were reported at any of the incidents.

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