Gov. Jack Markell has ordered mandatory evacuation of coastal communities in Sussex, Kent and New Castle counties. The evacuation begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, and is to be complete by 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28.
Everyone within three-quarters of a mile of the ocean and the Delaware Bay is expected to evacuate by 8 p.m. Sunday. Everyone living in low-lying areas or places that have flooded in previous storms is urged to evacuate.
The governor issued a limited state of emergency, which does not include a ban on driving and does not require businesses to close.
Officials estimated as many as 50,000 people will evacuate. Suggested routes and other information are expected to be posted at delaware.gov. Anyone evacuating from south of the Indian River Inlet bridge is urged to travel west on Route 26 or Route 54 and not to travel north on Route 1.
A shelter for the Cape Region at Cape Henlopen High School will open at noon Sunday, Oct. 28.
Rehoboth Beach officials say Sea Witch activities planned for Sunday have been cancelled.
Markell urged the public to take the evacuation order seriously. "We are going to be a lot more successful if people listen to these evacuation orders," he said. "It's likely power is going to be lost. The bay communities will almost certainly be cut off. It will not be possible for first responders to evacuate them."
Officials emphasized the storm is very large and slow moving and could dump as much as 10 inches of rain on the Cape Region over the next few days. Heavy rain and winds as high as 60 mph are expected to down trees and power lines; workers will not be able to begin repairing the lines as long as winds exceed 45 mph.
"As wet as the ground is going to be, you could be out of power for a long time," said Director of Delaware Emergency Management Agency Jamie Turner. "I can assure you it's gonna be something a lot of people have never had an opportunity to see in Delaware."
Markell reminded people shelters provide a space on the floor and limited food. People who evacuate to shelters are urged to bring pillows, sleeping bags, food and anything they need to stay occupied for what could be an extended period.
Asked if officials would impose penalties on anyone who does not evacuate Markell said, "People have to take personal responsibility here. If you do not evacuate, you are putting yourself and the first responders in harm's way."
Shelters in all three counties will open at noon Sunday, Oct. 28. Those who intend to seek shelter should not evacuate before noon.
Markell said under the limited state of emergency Delaware National Guard is mobilizing to assist in evacuation efforts and to provide security.
He also said we're not yet having high winds or rain, which should allow people time to reach safety. Officials expect residents to plan and prepare tonight, with most people evacuating during the day tomorrow. "Twenty-four hours is a reasonable time to evacuate the beaches," Markell said.
Those who need help to get to a shelter should call the helpline at 800 464-4357 (800-464-HELP). Sussex County residents with questions or needing help to get to a shelter should call 302-856-7366. Residents are reminded that the shelter at Cape Henlopen High School opens at noon Sunday.
Read the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center statement below.