As forecasts range from once inch to one foot of snow, state agencies are preparing for the worst, by making sure the roads, the equipment, and most of all, the employees are ready.
According to the National Weather Service, there is still “much uncertainty” associated with the forecast for winter weather Wednesday night through Thursday. Most forecast models indicate that Delaware could get four to six inches accumulation, but shifts in the storm track could drop more on the state, especially in northern areas. In preparation, Delaware Emergency Management Agency and other partnering agencies and groups are taking proactive measures. The State Emergency Operations Center will be staffed overnight and through the duration of the storm.
Equipment operators, mechanics, dispatchers and supervisors with the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) are spending today working on the trucks, making sure the stockpiles of salt, sand and fuel are topped off, while the crews are also patching the many potholes that have appeared in the past few days.
Thanks to the hard work of DelDOT mechanics, the fleet of 460 pieces of equipment is operational, despite the heavy use over the past month. “Overall we’re in good shape, considering what we’ve been through this winter,” said Mark Alexander, district engineer of Canal District, which is southern New Castle County.
Salt stockpiles are also ready to go. There are roughly 19,000 tons in stock today, with another 17,000 tons scheduled to be delivered to Port of Wilmington tomorrow. More salt is scheduled to arrive over the next two weeks.
DelDOT is also spending today dealing with the bumper crop of potholes that have grown from the severe weather of the past month. Heavy snow conditions with constant plowing, salt usage, and daily freezing and thawing are the perfect recipe for potholes. During the winter, it is hard to correctly repair potholes because the next snow or rain event will often erode the spot again.
Despite the challenges, DelDOT makes every effort to attend to the pothole problems. Maintenance crews in all counties have spent some time this week laying out “cold patch” material to fill and repair trouble spots. We will keep doing this work as needed. In the spring and through the summer more permanent hot mix repairs will be made to areas that are more problematic.
Spokesperson Rosanne Pack said DEMA and supporting agencies and organizations will be in communication with the NWS Wednesday and pre-dawn Thursday and throughout the day. She said efforts to coordinate preparations and response are already underway. She encourages the public to stay aware of conditions in their areas and to heed recommendations regarding travel.
“Everyone in Delaware should consider themselves members of the preparedness and response team,” she said. “We don’t know what our snow levels will be with this system, but taking personal precautionary measures is are the key to your comfort and safety. Check your own emergency supplies of food, water and batteries. Have a plan for a destination for you and your pets if you lose power and have to evacuate. Even if you don’t use your supplies or your plan for this storm, you can be confident that you are prepared for other events.”
Strong winds are expected with this system, beginning Thursday morning and continuing late Thursday into Friday. Wind gusts up to 50 mph are possible along the coast, with 30 to 40 mph gusts possible inland Blowing and drifting snow can be expected, along with downed trees and wires.
These conditions should be considered for those who must travel. Also, unsecured outdoor furniture or ornaments should be protected and, if possible, limbs already damaged by snow weight should be removed.
The storm also has the potential to produce minor coastal flooding especially during high tides on Thursday Feb 25.
Office of Highway Safety
The Office of Highway Safety encourages residents to monitor morning weather conditions closely. OHS officials are concerned as roads are likely to be either snow covered or slushy during the morning rush hours. “So if you are heading out to work, please allow yourself additional time, drive more slowly than usual, and clear snow completely off of windshields, hoods, roofs and trunks of vehicles. This is especially important for higher profile vehicles such as tractor trailers, utility vehicles and cargo vans,” said Andrea Summers, OHS spokesperson.
Delaware State Police
Sgt. Walter Newton, Public Information Officer of the Delaware State Police, said troopers are ready. “State police will begin to monitor the storm with DelDOT and DEMA and coordinate staffing and assets to the areas of the state that will be impacted most by the storm,” he said.
Delaware National Guard
Soldiers with the Delaware National Guard are also ready to step in if needed. “The Delaware National Guard is working closely with DEMA in tracking the coming storm and is prepared to mobilize forces should the governor call for them. Currently, the Guard is ensuring that it will have personnel and equipment ready to react if needed,” said 1st Lt. Nathan Bright, PIO for Delaware National Guard.