Weekend storm packed powerful punch


Hubbard Avenue in Bowers Beach looked more like a river than a road Monday. Although Hurricane Joaquin missed Delaware, the rain and wind that came along with it caused flooding near the Delaware Bay and road closures in low areas. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

Hubbard Avenue in Bowers Beach looked more like a river than a road Monday. Although Hurricane Joaquin missed Delaware, the rain and wind that came along with it caused flooding near the Delaware Bay and road closures in low areas. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

BOWERS BEACH — By Monday afternoon, the temperature had climbed into the 60s, and the gray clouds were starting to give way to blue sky and even sunshine. It was in stark contrast to the weekend climate, and it came as a welcome relief to many.

But there were a few remnants from the mighty storm that had pounded the state days earlier — and seemed for a time like it would be followed by an even more powerful weather system.

The Delaware Bay threatened to overflow onto the shore Monday, more than 48 hours after the area received any rain. A portion of Hubbard Road in Bowers Beach was shut down due to several inches of standing water, effectively preventing a few unlucky homeowners from exiting through their front door. Nearby, water at the boat ramps came very close to where the ramp met the parking lot. The bay had, for the moment, seized some new territory.

A few individuals drove by and stopped to briefly gawk at the water before continuing on their way.

Hurricane Joaquin missed Delaware, but the state still received a hefty dose of rain and wind.

The state was in a coastal flood warning for several days, with much of Kent and Sussex counties receiving at least 5 inches of rain over the past week. Wind gusts reached top speeds of close to 40 mph, while roadways were closed, sporting events were postponed and residents hunkered down on Friday and Saturday.

Gov. Jack Markell declared a limited state of emergency in Sussex Friday, lifting it early Monday afternoon.

Twenty-five mph winds that reached up to 40 blew in Lewes near the beach Saturday, with thick fog limiting what could be seen. At Lewes Beach, wind and waves had pushed sand across the beach parking lot and to a depth of about a foot in the nearby Dairy Queen parking lot.

All in all, it could have been worse.

Delaware avoided the double-whammy of a storm followed by a hurricane, sparing the state several inches of rain.

Still, the nor’easter provided plenty of disruptions. The NASCAR Drive Sober 125 was moved to Saturday, the Wesley football game was bumped to Monday and various weekend festivals and expos were canceled.

Sussex County beaches were hit hard, particularly around Bethany Beach.

Tony Pratt, administrator of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Shoreline and Waterway Management Section, described South Bethany as “ground zero,” noting about one-third of the dunes there had been washed away.

Instead of a gradual slope as the dunes gave way to the beaches, there is now a steep drop of 8 to 10 feet, Mr. Pratt reported, although Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach were more fortunate.

He was itching to get out there with several members of his team Monday but was prevented from doing so, thanks to high waves. Joaquin is hundreds of miles off the coast, but its effect will be felt for several days as powerful waves pummel the shore, Mr. Pratt said.

Once the waves subside and the beaches dry out, DNREC plans to stabilize the base of the dunes and push sand up against them so the dunes and beaches connect through a gradual sand ramp rather than a steep cliff.

Preventing beach erosion from future storms begins as soon as a storm ends, he said with a laugh.

All in all, the impact was not surprising but was disappointing, he said.

Delaware State Police reported there were 209 investigated incidents from Thursday to Sunday. Most of those were property damage crashes, while 25 were car accidents, although police did not know if all incidents were weather-related.

In Kent County, Little Creek was fortunate. Despite the town’s close location to the Delaware Bay, the Little Creek Volunteer Fire Company had only one weather-related call.

Volunteers responded to an automobile accident that was due to a partially flooded road, but “beyond that we didn’t have anything that was out of the ordinary,” Chief Michael Scott Bundek said, noting he was surprised at the lack of emergencies.

As of 2 p.m., 15 roads, including multiple ones in every county, were closed, the Department of Transportation reported.

Frank Webb, a resident of South Bowers Beach, said he saw two drivers who were trapped by floodwaters on Big Stone Beach Road and had to be rescued. The Milford area road was among those shut down due to the rain.

It was being used as a detour due to nearby construction, but the detour signs had not been removed even when the road was shut down, he said.

One driver plunged into the water “so deep that it shut the car off,” he said. “She was stuck. I mean, she was terrified, absolutely terrified.”

About 8,300 Delaware Electric Cooperative members lost power during the storm, mostly due to falling trees and branches. The majority of the outages took place in eastern Sussex and were fixed in between 30 minutes and two hours, co-op spokesman Jeremy Tucker said.

“We also appreciate the patience of our members as linemen worked in less than ideal conditions to restore power over the weekend,” he said in an email. “The sun is out today and our crews are hoping for a quiet week. They deserve some rest after their hard work this weekend.”

Delmarva Power reported some “scattered power outages” as well.

Throughout the rest of the week, Delawareans can look forward to sunshine and temperatures that could reach into the mid-70s, a big change from the weekend’s wild weather.

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