Lewes survives Sandy’s surge

Hurricane’s path shifted away from city
Hurricane Sandy's winds whipped up the Delaware Bay and sent waves hammering against Lewes Beach. Already severely eroded beach near Childrens Beach House sustained further damage in the storm's wake. Beach erosion is also severe near Cape Shores. BY DENNIS FORNEY
October 30, 2012

Super storm Sandy’s strongest winds skirted the City of Lewes and the tidal surge she caused wasn’t as severe as expected.

“We were very fortunate in the end, the storm took the track that it did,” Lewes Mayor Jim Ford said Oct. 30.

Ford said he drove throughout the city to survey conditions after the brunt of the storm passed.

“It looks like the worst damage is going to be beach erosion. Beach has been severely washed out near Childrens Beach House and the beach at Cape Shores has been hit hard,” he said.

Ford said the only structural damage he saw was to a unit at Port Lewes. Delaware Bay is immediately adjacent to Cape Shores and Port Lewes.

He said Bay Avenue had no standing water in sections of the street he was able to see. “It was in good shape. The porous surface looks like it’s working,” he said, referring to special asphalt used to recently repave the street that allows water to drain through it.

Watching the hurricane movement

Ford said tracking Sandy’s path from North Carolina’s coast into the Cape Region, was worrisome. One tracking model forecast the storm’s center would pass directly over Cape Henlopen, he said.

He said Sandy shifted north, and about 24 hours later shifted a bit south, putting it on a track for Cape May. “That’s pretty close,” Ford said. Cape May is about 20 miles east of Lewes across the Delaware Bay.

He said Sunday evening’s high tide combined with the storm’s wind, didn’t generate as much tidal surge as predicted. Sandy also shifted northwest more extremely than meteroligists first thought it would, Ford said. He said at 10 p.m. Oct. 28, the tide was 8.5 feet. Ford said Sandy’s impact in the area is being likened to February 1998’s back-to-back nor’easters.

Because of her size, weather experts branded Sandy especially dangerous. Even 500 miles from the storm’s center she packed damaging, tropical storm strength winds and heavy rain.

Ford said while tracking the hurricane he noticed when the eye neared Cape Hatteras, one of her spiral arms stretched from North Carolina to Illinois.

Assistance and evacuation

Only a few needed emergency assistance. Ford said a couple in a vehicle on New Road near Canary Creek needed assistance, and a man who lives at the northernmost end of Pilottown Road had to be rescued.

He said the man reported losing track of what was going on around him and realized his way out had been cut off by the rising tide.

Lewes Fire Department attempted to reach the man Ford said, but the boat they used wasn’t able to get to him. He said a vessel from the Pilots Association Bay & River Delaware picked him up and gave him a ride to the City Dock.

Ford said not everyone living on Lewes Beach in other low-lying areas east of the Lewes Rehoboth Canal followed Gov. Jack Markell’s mandatory evacuation order.

He said Lewes police officers and city firefighters went door to door along Lewes Beach telling those they came in contact with to evacuate and leaving flyers if no one came to the door.

“The weather was still good and some people weren’t taking things seriously,” Ford said. He said around midnight Sunday, firefighters reported seeing lights on in as many as 60 homes, but he said they saw fewer lights on as the storm worsened.