Joaquin is making a turn to the north

Hurricane Joaquin is shown here at the far eastern periphery of the GOES West satellite Thursday morning. Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that storm’s maximum sustained winds increased to near 125 mph (205 km/h) with higher gusts Thursday morning. Additional strengthening is possible during the next 24 hours, with some fluctuations in intensity possible Friday night and Saturday. (NOAA Visualization Laboratory image)

Hurricane Joaquin is shown here at the far eastern periphery of the GOES West satellite Thursday morning. Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that storm’s maximum sustained winds increased to near 125 mph (205 km/h) with higher gusts Thursday morning. Additional strengthening is possible during the next 24 hours, with some fluctuations in intensity possible Friday night and Saturday. (NOAA Visualization Laboratory image)

 

UPDATE: Forecasters say Hurricane Joaquin is making a turn north and then the northeast, changing its projected path. Updated National Weather Service Forecast for the Dover area:

Today
Rain. The rain could be heavy at times. High near 57. Breezy, with a north wind 20 to 23 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.
Tonight
Rain. Low around 53. Breezy, with a northeast wind around 24 mph, with gusts as high as 34 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.
Saturday
Rain or drizzle likely. Cloudy, with a high near 64. Breezy, with a northeast wind around 23 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Saturday Night
A chance of drizzle or light rain. Cloudy, with a low around 59. Breezy, with a northeast wind 22 to 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Sunday
A chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 68. Breezy, with a northeast wind 21 to 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

 

Editor’s note: This story contains forecast information from Thursday.

DOVER — For many, this storm couldn’t have come at a worse time.

This weekend’s NASCAR race at Dover International Speedway — a centerpiece of early fall for many race fans and Delawareans — is in jeopardy due to the approach of Hurricane Joaquin and a second storm.

Even if Joaquin moves out to sea, Delaware will still be blasted by adverse weather conditions over the weekend.

A coastal flood warning was in effect Thursday, and a coastal flood watch is in place until Sunday afternoon.

A wave of low pressure has been moving along a stalled front located just offshore, producing rain over the past few days, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Lance Franck. That is expected to continue through the weekend.

The NWS predicts a 90 percent chance of rain for Dover today, with winds up to around 35 mph and rainfall totaling 4 inches. Saturday is expected to be slightly calmer, but wind and rain are still in the forecast.

And that’s all before the hurricane hits.

Hurricane-force winds, defined as 74 mph or greater, could hit the state along with possible record flooding, a Thursday report from the NWS states.

Joaquin could pass over or near Delaware around Sunday night, Mr. Franck said, although a great deal of uncertainty remains.

The hurricane, which is currently around the Bahamas, is projected to pass by offshore, although its effect would still be felt in Delaware. However, it could miss the state, moving out to the Atlantic Ocean or making landfall around New England instead. Nonetheless, Mr. Franck emphasized, citizens should not ignore the strong and potentially even dangerous conditions that will pelt the First State regardless of Joaquin’s path.

Despite the storms potentially turning this weekend into one best spent inside, Dover International Speedway officials remain optimistic.

“You just kind of take it in stride and hope that everybody stays safe,” said Mike Tatoian, president of Dover International Speedway.

A decision to cancel or postpone races will be made by NASCAR and the speedway on the day of each event. The track can be dried off in an hour with about a dozen jet dryers, meaning a steady drizzle could persist until 1:30 p.m. Sunday and the AAA 400 could still be held.

As with everything else surrounding the weather, though, uncertainty reigns supreme.

 

If a race is pushed to Monday, the speedway would have to adjust. While Mr. Tatoian is expecting a solid crowd Sunday, a postponement would greatly impact attendance.

It would also have an effect on employees. The track hires many people to work the weekend events, providing security, directing parking and selling food. Many of those workers attend school or have a full-time job during the week, putting their Monday availability into question.

While the smaller number of fans would mean the speedway does not need the full 3,000 employees for a Monday race, gathering the necessary personnel requires preparation.

“You build contingency plans and once you know that is a distinct possibility or that is a likelihood we start to communicate accordingly,” Mr. Tatoian said.

Officials have been speaking to weekend employees to see how many could work during the week if needed.

The last time a Dover race was moved due to weather was 2007, when the June Autism Speaks 400 was bumped from Sunday to Monday.

Race fans can visit www.doverspeedway.com/news_content/dover-weather-updates or view the speedway’s social media accounts to see if there are any changes.

In the comments below the updates, dozens of people have expressed their disappointment in the weather and called for the races to be canceled ahead of time.

So far, the rain has forced the cancellation of some events, including one NASCAR-related showcase.

The hauler parade, which would have featured dozens of NASCAR trucks making their way through downtown Dover Thursday afternoon, was canceled about 90 minutes before the event’s start time.

Campgrounds at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware Seashore State Park (Indian River Inlet) and Trap Pond State Park near Laurel will close at 8 a.m. today.

Cape Henlopen School District closed all schools today due to the expected conditions.

The University of Delaware’s Coast Day, scheduled for Sunday in Lewes, was canceled Thursday as well.

“We are using the tools and science that we have available at the present time to make a decision that best protects the safety of our visitors, faculty, staff and students,” Mohsen Badiey, acting dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, said in a statement. “Coast Day typically draws nearly 10,000 visitors to Lewes, and it would be irresponsible to encourage attendance in the face of unpredictable weather.”

The Delmarva Amateur Radio and Electronics EXPO, which was to take place Saturday in Georgetown, was called off.

Getting ready

State agencies, local organizations and power companies have been working for several days to prepare, especially with the potential flooding and power outages.

“It’s all hands on deck here for the next couple days,” said Jeremy Tucker, a spokesman for the Delaware Electric Cooperative.

Both Mr. Tucker and Matthew Likovich, a spokesman for Delmarva Power, urged citizens to develop emergency kits containing flashlights, batteries, bottled water and food rations.

Delmarva Power has hundreds of employees and contractors ready to respond to power outages, Mr. Likovich said.
“If Mother Nature wants to do its part, it can still create some damage,” Mr. Likovich said.

Mr. Likovich cautioned people to stay away from downed power lines, which can be live even if they do not appear to have a current.

Delaware Electric Co-op members needing to report power outages can call 855-332-9090, and Delmarva Power customers should use 1-800-898-8042. Both Delmarva Power customers and coop members can check the websites and social media to find information on outages.

Red Cross urges individuals to download its phone app from Google play or the Apple Store. The nonprofit also advises citizens to make an emergency evacuation plan for a worst-case scenario.

The Department of Transportation is working with other state agencies to prepare, department spokesman Geoff Sundstrom said. DelDOT and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control have been checking dams throughout the state, and DelDOT is readying its loaders in the event of debris, particularly along coastal roads.

“Whether a hurricane makes landfall in Delaware or even anywhere close to Delaware we’re still expecting pretty heavy rain and high tide and wave action,” Mr. Sundstrom said.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture said farmers should make sure there is a several days’ supplies of food and water for their animals. They should also determine what to do with animals if forced to evacuate and should fortify shelters if needed.

According to the Department of Health and Social Services, individuals should prepare a three-day supply of non-perishable food for themselves. Food that may have been touched by flood waters should be thrown out, as should containers that appear damaged.

In the event of floods, Delawareans should stay away from the water, as not only can it carry a person away, it can contain deadly bacteria.

DHSS also urged people to check in with people in need of assistance, such as elderly relatives.

The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center called for county residents to be prepared and for those planning to visit to change their plans.

“There is a lot to be concerned about with the forecast, so the public needs to be prepared now and move, if possible, before flood waters come in,” center Director Joseph L. Thomas said in a statement.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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