Preparing for storms as the housing market brightens

This time last year Delaware's Cape Region was two weeks away from preparing for Hurricane Irene.  On Second Street in Lewes, a few days before the predicted storm, Tom Morris and Neal Murabito were plywooding the plate glass at Kids' Ketch. SOURCE CAPE GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
August 10, 2012

Last August about this time we were starting to hear the earliest creaking from a storm rumbling across the south Atlantic called Irene.  She eventually became a hurricane and set her sights on the Mid-Atlantic coast with forecasters predicting a direct hit with sustained winds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Though Irene never hit us as expected, she was part of that triple crown that in the space of a little more than a week also dealt us a rare earthquake and a damaging tornado.

Although she was mostly a no-show, Irene nonetheless knocked out a whole weekend of peak-season tourism and caused lots of hard feelings. Rehoboth Beach Mayor Sam Cooper said in addition to the coastwide evacuation that knocked out the weekend, some businesses were told to close their doors while others continued doing business. “The problem last year was that our police department took what was going on in other places and began implementing it here.  It was premature, so some people were told to close at one time while others were told they could stay open until another time.  That caused confusion in the community.”

Cooper said in the future, the police department, in matters of evacuation, will only act on orders from the mayor.  “Of course, that will only come after I consult with city departments and the state and county,” said Cooper.  “We need a coordinated message.  Thirty years ago, when we were more sparsely populated, each town would make its own evacuation decisions.  But now it would be insane for Rehoboth to get a message out  that it was evacuating at midnight and Dewey Beach said it was doing it at 6 p.m. The mayors are ultimately in charge and we will make our own decisions in the end – but only after lots of communication.”

Cooper said evacuation orders are tricky.  “Last year’s was an easy decision because the forecast was for as worst a case scenario as you could imagine.  The ones I worry about are the in-betweeners – not the ones with 100-mph winds.  If they’re forecasting 70 or 80, do we go or not?  Do we just tell the vacationers to go and the residents can stay? Those are the tough ones.”

Cooper said his understanding of mandatory evacuation is that people should leave their properties.  If they decide to ignore the order, they should not expect any response from emergency services.  “When it comes down to it, individual liberty trumps dragging someone out of their house for a mandatory evacuation. But we will be stricter on businesses.  We can’t have an evacuation order for tourists and  then have businesses stay open. If there is an order to close and a business stays open anyway, it will be fined.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a normal hurricane season for the six-month period that started June 1. That means less storm activity than last year, with an expected dozen or so named storms and at least half of them reaching hurricane status (above 70 mph winds) and three of those getting to the 100-plus mph status. NOAA is quick to point out, however, that Hurricane Andrew – which devastated the South Carolina coast in 1992 – came during a normal hurricane season. The message, as always when it comes to hurricanes, is to be prepared.

New community on its way

It’s been a while since Sussex County has seen a new development break ground.  That’s about to end.  A new billboard went up on Route 1 recently announcing Senators.

On land owned by the Lingo-Townsend group, the Senators project represents a collaboration between the landowners, Schell Brothers home builders and Jack Lingo Realtor. Bill Lingo said the project will feature home-lot packages, with construction by Schell and sales by Lingo.

The 229-lot project fronts on Gills Neck Road just outside Lewes and south of the Hawkseye community.

“Senators will be different than Hawkseye,” said Lingo.  “The lots are more in the quarter-acre range – about 12,000 square feet – compared to the half-acre and larger lots in Hawkseye.  The homes will also be smaller, in the range of 1,800 to 2,000 square feet. We think they will appeal to first-time homebuyers because of the price, second-home buyers because of the proximity of the resorts, and also to retirees because they’re smaller and there will be less maintenance. It’s kind of a shotgun approach.”

Lingo said the real estate market east of Route 1 is hot and there are only 25 lots remaining for sale in Hawkseye.  “We think the time is right.  We will start on the infrastructure in the fall. Part of the infrastructure will be a central irrigation system. We already have an irrigation well in place there for the crops we have been growing, so we will just convert that for lawn and garden irrigation.”

He said the community will also include a clubhouse – “like the one at Nassau Grove that gets used so much by their community,” said Lingo – and a pool.  “We’re also preserving the woods at the back of the property that buffers Pot Hook Creek.  All very environmentally friendly.” The home-lot packages, he said, would start at about $340,000.

One thing we all can count on: the attractiveness of Delaware’s Cape Region with its low taxes, parks and beaches, and temperate climate will continue to draw new residents for many years to come.

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