As predicted, heavy rain, wind, high tides and flooding started by mid-day Oct. 28, well ahead of the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, forecast for late Monday, Oct. 29.
With a state of emergency in place, more than 50,000 Delaware residents living along the coast and in low-lying areas were ordered to evacuate. Seven shelters were opened throughout the state. All nonessential businesses were ordered to close by 6 p.m. Sunday.
Shop owners in Rehoboth Beach spent most of the day Sunday boarding up windows and sandbagging doorways. A steady stream of visitors poured out of the Nation's Summer Capital following two days of Sea Witch Festival activities.
The megastorm that began as Hurricane Sandy remained on track to hit Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic region with tropical storm-force winds, a 3- to 6-foot-high tidal surge and an estimated 8 to 10 inches of rain across the county. Storm surges and tides will be exacerbated by a full moon Monday, Oct. 29, that is already expected to cause higher-than-normal astronomical high tides as high as 8 to 8.5 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
With high winds expected over a prolonged period, downed trees and power lines – and the possibility of electrical outages lasting for days – are a distinct possibility with this storm, said Joseph Thomas, director of Sussex County Emergency Operations Center
“The prospects of Sussex County dodging a bullet this time are looking less and less by the hour,” Thomas said Sunday. “Now is the time to move as we get closer to this storm coming ashore. If you’ve experienced flooding from any storm in the past, you’re going to have flooding from this one. For anyone who doesn’t get out now, it may be days before help can get to you.”
Lewes firefighters and police went door early Sunday morning along Lewes Beach urging residents who remained to evacuate. The area is prone to flooding and some roads were covered with water early Sunday.
“We all already seeing significant flooding and the storm is not here yet,” Gov. Jack Markell said as he toured a Red Cross shelter Sunday at Cape Henlopen High School.
Markell issued a warning to those who choose to ride out the storm. “If you stay, your evacuation route may be cut off and emergency responders may not be able to get to you,” he said.
At least two roads, Route 1 between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach, and Prime Hook Road, were closed early Sunday. DelDOT officials said many more closures were expected. There was an unconfirmed report Sunday afternoon that several people had not evacuated Primehook Beach and were not able to get out.
Residents who have evacuation questions can call the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center at 856-7366, the Delaware Helpline at 1-800-464-HELP (4357) or the Hurricane Sandy Delaware Information Line is also available at 302-632-7060.