Winter storm expected to bring mostly rain to Kent, Sussex

DOVER — It doesn’t appear as if residents of Kent and Sussex counties will be needing to rush to stores and purchase snow shovels ahead of the expected winter storm that is poised to hit the Mid-Atlantic region on Wednesday and Thursday.

They can also probably leave the bread, eggs and toilet paper alone, too, according to Jonathan O’Brien, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

“By now, everyone kind of knows we’re keeping a very close eye on that Wednesday-Thursday period,” Mr. O’Brien said. “It looks like it’s going to be a pretty significant snowstorm for portions of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast.

“For Delaware, we have a winter storm watch in effect and it includes New Castle County. It does not include Kent and Sussex counties. We think that there’s going to very likely be a rain-snow line with this storm, and we think at this stage that most of Delaware will predominately be south of that line, in other words, getting mainly rain for the majority of the state – especially Kent and Sussex counties.”

For those who are eager for a taste of that first snowfall of 2021, they should head up to the Wilmington area.

“Farther north up towards the Wilmington metro area you get more into that transition zone and there is a potential for several inches of snow up in portions of northern Delaware, and it’s for that reason that they’ve been included in the winter storm watch,” said Mr. O’Brien.

“Current forecasts for right around Wilmington is generally in about the four- to seven-inch range, but there is definitely a good deal of uncertainty about that. I would say that the northern Delaware, Wilmington area, is probably one of our most uncertain points for the forecast right now. You’re probably going to be very close to that transition zone.”

Even if the storm does not produce snow in Kent and Sussex counties, it still could be dangerous.

A hazardous weather outlook issued by the NWS said a coastal storm could bring coastal flooding and wind gusts in excess of 40 mph Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

For that reason, workers for the Delaware Electric Cooperative and other power companies around the state are keeping a very close eye on the approaching storm.

“High winds and snow can wreak havoc on our system,” said Lauren Irby, manager of public relations and community outreach for the Delaware Electric Cooperative. “To prepare, we are making sure our bucket trucks are fully stocked with supplies, and all available crews will be on standby should the storm cause power outages.

“While the current forecast calls for just a few inches of snow, the expected heavy rain and high winds may be enough to knock trees onto power lines causing scattered outages. Nor’easters are notoriously unpredictable, and we hope the storms do not drop significant snow across our area. We know some members would love a white Christmas, but coastal snowstorms generally mean long and dangerous nights for our lineman.”

The Delaware Department of Transportation) will also be monitoring the storm closely before its expected arrival on Wednesday.

“This is one of those scenarios where we may not have certainty until precipitation begins,” said Charles “C.R.” McLeod, spokesman for DelDOT.

“DelDOT continues to monitor the forecast and track of the storm and will be ready to mobilize our response whether it be statewide or in an isolated area.

“We have more than 400 pieces of snow removal equipment across the state and 480,000 tons of salt at the ready. Our crews and plow trucks will be ready to roll and we encourage anyone who expects to be out on the roads over the next couple of days to be mindful of the conditions which could change quickly.”

Mr. McLeod added, “It has been quite the snow drought here in Delaware and we want everyone to drive safely and be prepared for this storm and whatever the entire winter season may bring.”

While winter doesn’t officially arrive until Dec. 21, this is the time of year when Delaware typically sees its first winter storm of the season. Over the past 70 years, the average date for the first winter storm in Delaware has been mid-December.

But Delaware is far removed from recording its record earliest snowfall of the season. That distinction belongs to Nov. 6-7, 1953, when 11.9 inches of snow was dumped on Wilmington while the rest of the state recorded around seven to 10 inches.

It looks as if Wilmington is set to get most of the snow again this week if that snow/rain transition line that is expected to be in northern New Castle County has its way.

“We’re fairly confident that it will be a mainly rain event for Kent and Sussex counties, but less confident in what things will look like by the time you get up towards Wilmington.”