With snow forecast, stores respond and leaders encourage precautions

SMYRNA — Smyrna Community Hardware was just about done packing away the snow shovels, salt and other seasonal equipment before today’s forecast sent them back to the supply room to haul the seasonal items back out.

“We’ve been selling shovels all day,” said Al Dias, who works at the store. “We haven’t sold too much salt yet though.”

Their supply hasn’t been drained completely, he said, but they’ll likely have less stock to put back in the storeroom after the upcoming storm.

At mid-afternoon Monday, WBOC meteorologist Mike Lichniak described the upcoming front as a “classic nor’easter” forecast to spare Kent and Sussex counties of a large snowfall.

Acknowledging that atmospheric variables could alter the weather pattern, Mr. Lichniak predicted that any significant snow amounts would likely fall on Wilmington and northward.

Overnight snow into this morning was forecast to begin melting by dawn due to arriving rain and warm ground in central Delaware. A six-hour rainfall could transition back into some snow by the afternoon, perhaps 1 to 2 inches hitting warmer ground in temperatures from the mid to high 30 degrees, according to WBOC.

“It’s an interesting forecast,” he said. “While there’s a lot of attention paid to inch counts of snow, the rain will be washing it away as dawn arrives.”

A storm surge along the beaches could cause significant coastal erosion, Mr. Lichniak said. Sustained winds of 20 to 45 mph are expected, with gusts reaching 60 mph on the Atlantic Ocean front.

Predicting local weather can be tricky, Mr. Lichniak said, especially with the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay in close proximity.

Gov. John Carney on Monday evening issued a Level 1 Driving Warning for New Castle County effective midnight Tuesday and authorized the Delaware National Guard to assist state and local officials with any necessary response and recovery for this severe winter storm effective Monday at 9 p.m.

A Level One Driving Warning means that any person operating a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways must exercise extra caution. Driving is not banned, but nonessential employees (both public and private) are encouraged not to operate a motor vehicle unless there is a significant safety, health or business reason to do so.

The National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey, issued a hazardous weather outlook for central Delaware that began at 8 p.m. Monday and remains in effect until today at 2 p.m. They also issued a coastal flood warning from 7 p.m. Monday until 3 p.m. today.

“An extreme situation is developing for portions of our area as a major coastal storm interrupts our usual daily routines on Tuesday,” the National Weather Service reported.

The NWS expected overnight rain, snow, and sleet before 2 a.m., then rain and sleet between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., followed by rain. The temperature was expected to drop to 32 degrees, cooled by breezy conditions with 11 to 21 mph winds, and gusts as high as 32 mph. Approximately 1 to 3 inches of snow and sleet accumulation were possible.

The NWS predicted rain and sleet until 11 a.m. today, transitioning to snow and sleet until 2 p.m. and a chance of snow afterward. A high temperature near 37 degrees are possible in continued windy conditions bringing possibilities of blowing snow in the late afternoon. New snow and sleet accumulation of less than a half inch is possible, according to the NWS.

Scattered snow showers are possible overnight into Wednesday, mainly after 2 a.m. The low temperature could drop to 22 degrees in blustery conditions with west winds at 15 to 20 mph. Less than half an inch of snow accumulation could occur.

Low pressure developing off the Carolina coast Monday night would become an intense storm as it moves east of New Jersey midday today, according to the report. Swaths of excessive precipitation will develop along the western track of the storm. Wind gusts as high as 60 mph are also expected for the coastal beaches.

With the forecast, state transportation, emergency officials and public health leaders began urging residents to take precautions against the weather and related conditions.

DelDOT is expecting the heaviest snow in New Castle County, where 8 to 12 inches is possible, followed by Kent County with 4 to 6 inches. The agency was anticipating the heaviest snowfall early morning through early afternoon on Tuesday. Wind gusting is expected to create drifting issues, but officials said roads had been coated with brine and crews were ready to respond.

The Delaware State Police, according to a press release, were ready for increased patrols, assisting disabled vehicles and managing roadway incidents and hazards for as long as necessary. Many of the calls for service received by troopers during winter storms are for vehicle crashes, disabled vehicles and abandoned vehicles which cause a major problem for DelDOT’s snow removal equipment and for other troopers responding to emergency situations. Both DelDOT and the Delaware State Police strongly encourage motorists to postpone and avoid unnecessary travel.

If travel is necessary during the storm, the state police recommend using caution while driving when approaching intersections and off ramps, especially bridges and overpasses.

If travel is necessary during the storm, the state police recommend using caution while driving when approaching intersections and off ramps, especially bridges and overpasses. DelDOT and the state police also recommend:

  • Reduce speed and increase following distance between vehicles
  • Allow ample time to reach destination
  • Keep vehicle headlights on to increase visibility
  •  Check to ensure vehicle ensuring is in good working order
  • Fill up the fuel tank in advance of the storm
  • Check windshield wipers, windshield wiper fluid, tire tread and battery life
  •  Ensure that an emergency kit is in the vehicle that contains a blanket, bottled water, snacks, cell phone charger and a flash light • Have important numbers programmed with a roadside assistance provider
  •  Ensure that vehicles windows are free of ice and snow before driving If a motorist has vehicle problems, the state police suggest staying with their vehicle, as freezing temperatures can be life-threatening. In a press release, the American Red Cross also stressed the importance of traveling with an emergency kit during winter storms.

For information on road conditions: DelDOT’s Transportation Management Center (TMC) and WTMC-1380 AM provides motorists real-time traffic conditions throughout the state. Motorists can contact the TMC at any time to report travel or traffic related issues at the following numbers: Dial #77 from any cell phone or (302) 659-4600 or 1-800-324-8379.

The DelDOT App is available for Apple and Android smart phones and tablets, and can be downloaded free by searching for “DelDOT” at the Apple and Google Play stores. With the DelDOT App, users can view real time traffic cameras, travel times, delays, advisories, DART’s Real-Time Transit Information and also listen to WTMC 1380 AM.

For any weather-related transit service disruptions, check DartFirstState.com. DART riders can also subscribe to Rider Alerts and DART news at Delaware Notification Service.

In the aftermath of the storm, the Postal Service has asked for customers’ assistance in clearing walkways and areas around mailboxes of snow and ice for the safety of mail carriers. The service noted that in past winter storm events, carriers have suffered serious injuries related to slips, trips and falls due to icy and snow covered walkways and porch steps.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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