Southern Delaware hit hardest by snow storm

A DelDOT snow plow pushes snow on Old Mill Road near Camden on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Updated at 1:20 p.m.

With the snow accumulations and frigid weather downstate, Sussex County schools Sunday afternoon started announcing closures for Monday, Jan. 9. The Cape, Seaford, Indian River and Sussex Tech school districts are among those closed. For information, visit schoolclosings.delaware.gov.

Officials from the Delaware Department of Transportation said snow crews overnight had made “a great deal of progress across the state, removing snow from the state’s roads and bridges, and will continue to work through the day today.”

In a press release, officials said, “Fortunately, the primary roads across the state are mostly snow and ice free, so some assets have been shifted to focus on secondary and minor roads. In addition, crews are working to clear snow from intersections and median crossovers.”

With drifting in Sussex County, officials said some roads required constant attention as snow blew back across cleared roads.

With snow-removal efforts continuing and hundreds of people and large pieces of equipment working on roads, bridges and intersections across the state, DelDOT officials reiterated the need for motorists to drive slowly and patiently when driving near a DelDOT plow.

Their advice:

  • Stay behind the snowplow. Don’t attempt to pass. The road behind a snowplow is safer to drive on.
  • Stay back at least ten car lengths behind the snowplow, regardless of whether it is plowing or salting. Snow plows don’t always travel at consistent speeds. They may need to slow down or speed up to remove snow and ice that has been packed down by traffic.
  • Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip. The plow you see may be on its way to an assigned route, be plowing or salting the road you are on, or is about to begin plowing or salting the road.
  • Never drive close enough to a plow to be hit by snow and ice, salt or brine spray. Doing so is dangerous and can damage your vehicle.
  • Stay alert for snowplows that may be slowing, stopping, turning or pulling over with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or along road shoulders to improve road conditions.

Snowfall totals statewide began leveling off Saturday night and the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey, removed its winter storm warning. However, the hazardous weather outlook remains in effect for Kent and Sussex counties.

Blowing snow and wind gusts are likely to reduce visibility and make for hazardous travel conditions tomorrow even as roadways are cleared. However, the probability of “widespread” hazardous weather remains low.

Snow pummeled the state from dawn till dusk Saturday. According to the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), over 6 inches of snow has fallen in Smyrna and over 5 inches in Dover. As expected, the higher totals are in Sussex County. Bethany Beach and Laurel have over 7 inches and the state high was in Selbyville with a whopping 10 inches on Saturday.

At last check, it was 20 degrees at Dover Air Force Base. The forecast for tomorrow is sunny with a high near 25 degrees, but with wind chill values as low as zero. Winds coming from the west will range from 14-21 mph with gusts as high as 32 mph.

A SUV drives through heavy snow on Canterbury Road in Felton on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DelDOT officials reported that most primary roads in Sussex County are passable, but have a layer of hard-packed snow on them, so the Level 1 Driving Restriction issued by Gov. Jack Markell will likely remain in place until roads are clear. According to state law, a “Level 1 Driving Warning” means that any person operating a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways must exercise extra caution. All nonessential employees, public and private, are encouraged not to operate a motor vehicle unless there is a significant safety, health or business reason to do so.

DelDOT had nearly 400 men and women working to contend with the snow.

“Most of those people are equipment operators, but many are mechanics and dispatchers too,” said DelDOT spokesman Jim Westhoff.

DelDOT officials ask that residents to continue to stay off the roads unless travel is necessary – a recommendation made for their own safety as much as for the efficient and safe movement of plows.

Pete Hinson brushes snow off of his truck near Felton on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We don’t know when we’ll be done yet, but a lot of us have been out since dawn,” Mr. Westhoff said. “We rotate as people get tired so everyone stays safe. We do know that we’ll be working all weekend though to get the roads good and clear for the Monday commute.”

When salting and plowing operations are under way, DelDOT officials urge residents to use the DelDOT app, or go to DelDOT.gov to see real-time traffic cameras, weather station data and even snowfall accumulation.

Snowfall totals in inches (as of 9 p.m.)
Smyrna — 6.2
West Dover — 4.8
Dover — 5.4
Woodside — 4.8
Harrington — 3.4
Frederica — 4.4
Bethany Beach — 7.1
Selbyville— 10
Nassau — 5.8
Stockley — 6.2
Ellendale — 6.6
Lewes — 6
Bridgeville — 6.1
Seaford — 6.1
Laurel — 8

Data provided by the Delaware Environmental Observing System

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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