UPDATE: Tropical Storm Isaias brings tornado alerts to Delaware

DOVER — The City of Dover has issued a state of emergency in response to the tropical storm sending tornado alerts and heavy rain through the state.

The state of emergency includes driving restrictions. More details are to follow, according to a message from the mayor.

“We are asking you to stay in your homes and avoid unnecessary travel,” a message states. “If your vehicle is parked on the street where trees are down, please move it if possible to help our utility and cleanup crews.”

A tornado “was confirmed on the ground” in Middletown, heading toward the Newark and Elkton, Md. area, according to AlertPage.

A crash in Townsend in the area, near the Del. 1 southbound and the Harris Road underpass, was also reported, with guidance to avoid the area.

Storm damage in front of Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Dover. Photo by Mike Finney

Through the morning, Delawareans have been greeted with tornado warnings, lots of rain and high winds this morning as Tropical Storm Isaias began making its inland march up the East Coast today after making landfall as a hurricane near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.

The Delaware Environmental Observing System at 8:15 a.m. reported the highest peak wind gusts in southern Delaware, with 53.2 mph in Dagsboro, 49.7 in Delmar, 40.2 in Georgetown, 41.9 at the Indian River Inlet and 35.8 in Rehoboth Beach.

“We don’t think there is going to be a whole lot of weakening, we still think there’s going to be very strong and gusty winds that will affect much of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast over the next day or two,” Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, told The Associated Press.

Delaware Electric Cooperative was already reporting 11,480 customers in Delaware without power at 8:30 a.m. and Delmarva Power had 90 outages involving 6,071 customers.

Sections of Dover were hard hit by high winds

Since early morning, Downstate Delawareans have been receiving tornado alerts with the arrival of Tropical Storm Isaias.

The Delaware Division of Health and Social Services reported that because of the tropical storm, Division of Public Health/Walgreens COVID-19 testing was canceled today at the three pilot sites: Bridgeville, 9202 Commercial Centre Drive; Dover:,1215 S. State St. and Middletown, 700 S. Ridge Ave.

Forecasters had warned tornadoes were possible, and two were later confirmed, near Kilmarnock, Virginia, and Vienna, Maryland. Heavy rains were predicted, with falling trees causing power outages as Isaias moves north. More than 500,000 customers lost electricity, most of them in North Carolina and Virginia, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.

In Suffolk, Virginia, near the coast, multiple homes were damaged by falling trees, and city officials received reports of a possible tornado. A fire station downtown sustained damage including broken window. A photo posted by city officials showed a pile of bricks lying next to a damaged business.

The storm set off flooding and sparked five home fires in Ocean Isle Beach, Mayor Debbie Smith told WECT-TV. The town’s firefighters were battling the blaze with help from Horry County firefighters in South Carolina, Tony Casey, a spokesperson for Horry County Fire Rescue, told The Associated Press.

About 80 miles (128 kilometers) north of Ocean Isle Beach, about 30 people were displaced due to a fire at a condominium complex in Surf City, news outlets reported. It is not clear if the fires were connected to the storm. No injuries have been reported.

Isaias (pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs) toggled between tropical storm and hurricane strength throughout its path to the U.S. coast, killing two people in the Caribbean and trashing the Bahamas before brushing past Florida.

Coastal shops and restaurants had closed early in the Carolinas, where power began to flicker at oceanfront hotels and even the most adventurous of beachgoers abandoned the sand Monday night. The National Hurricane Center warned oceanside home dwellers to brace for storm surge up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) and up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain in spots.

“All those rains could produce flash flooding across portions of the eastern Carolinas and mid-Atlantic, and even in the northeast U.S.,” said Daniel Brown, senior hurricane specialist. A tropical storm warning extended all the way up to Maine, where flash flooding was possible in some areas on Wednesday.

The center was moving over southeastern Virginia before daybreak, on a path to remain near or along the coast of mid-Atlantic states and continue across the northeastern United States later into the evening. Strong winds and heavy rainfall were expected to spread northward along the mid-Atlantic coast this morning.

As the storm neared the shore, a gauge on a pier in Myrtle Beach recorded its third highest water level since it was set up in 1976. Only Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 pushed more salt water inland.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged those evacuating to turn to shelters as a last resort, citing coronavirus risks and the need to operate shelters at reduced capacity to allow for social distancing.

“Whether it’s labeled a tropical storm or a hurricane, you should take this storm seriously, and make sure your family is ready,” Mr. Cooper said.