WEATHER ALERT: Visitors urged to postpone plans, leave area now

Residents urged to prepare ahead of possible 100 mph winds

Date Published: 
Aug. 25, 2011

Due to the impending and potentially very dangerous Hurricane Irene, all those who planned to visit Delaware the weekend of Aug. 26-28 are being urged to postpone plans immediately. Gov. Jack Markell and emergency management officials stated mid-day Thursday that weather conditions will not allow safe travel and lodging in the beach areas and possibly throughout other areas of the state.

State officials said they are also discussing evacuation possibilities for coastal and flood-prone areas throughout the state with county and other relevant partners. Any evacuation decisions and related actions will be announced and distributed immediately, they said.

Those who are presently vacationing in the beach areas are being urged to return to their homes now, while roads and bridges are safe.

“The governor and all emergency management officials are closely monitoring this dangerous storm and ask that the public take it very seriously, enDue to the impending and potentially very dangerous Hurricane Irene, all those who planned to visit Delaware the weekend of Aug. 26-28 are being urged to postpone plans immediately. Gov. Jack Markell and emergency management officials stated mid-day Thursday that weather conditions will not allow safe travel and lodging in the beach areas and possibly throughout other areas of the state.

State officials said they are also discussing evacuation possibilities for coastal and flood-prone areas throughout the state with county and other relevant partners. Any evacuation decisions and related actions will be announced and distributed immediately, they said.

Those who are presently vacationing in the beach areas are being urged to return to their homes now, while roads and bridges are safe.

“The governor and all emergency management officials are closely monitoring this dangerous storm and ask that the public take it very seriously, enact their household and business emergency plans and follow directions from state officials,” emergency officials said. “Those plans should include preparing for periods without travel or power, as well as securing objects around homes and businesses that may be affected by high winds.”

County officials urge people in low-lying areas to consider moving to higher ground now

Forecasters on Thursday said they expected Hurricane Irene could bring Sussex County and the Mid-Atlantic region hurricane-force winds, severe tidal flooding, and torrential rains beginning as early as Saturday morning and lasting through midday Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast had the center of the Category 3 storm, with sustained winds of 115 mph, to pass approximately 40 mph to 50 miles off the Delaware coast late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. At that time, the storm may be slightly less intense, at Category 2 status, with sustained winds of 100 mph. Still, the storm would be potent and close enough to Delaware to pose a serious threat to lives and property, county officials said.

Forecasters said they do not expect Sussex County to sustain a direct hit from the eye of the storm. However, sustained winds of 50 to 75 mph or greater, with gusts to 100 mph, particularly along the immediate coast, are possible throughout the event. In the meantime, the storm could create a surge of 2 to 5 feet of water along the oceanfront, Inland Bays and Delaware Bay, kick up swells of 12 to 24 feet on the seas and dump as much as a foot of rain across the county.

“No evacuations have been ordered, and no shelters have been designated at this time. However, Sussex County Emergency Operations Center officials are in close contact with State emergency planners this morning about the possibility of issuing an evacuation order for select communities and activating designated shelters,” said county Public Information Officer Chip Guy.

The public was reminded to have supply kits ready, know the evacuation routes and plan ahead on where to relocate, if needed. Residents in low-lying areas – particularly in the communities of Long Neck, Broadkill, Prime Hook, Slaughter Beach and Oak Orchard, as well as along the Route 1 corridor, including the Fenwick Island and Bethany Beach areas – should consider now relocating to safer, higher ground.

“This is a very dangerous storm we’re facing, and it looks more like a certainty than a possibility,” said Joseph L. Thomas, director of Sussex County EOC. “The public needs to take this threat seriously, and residents, property owners and visitors should be moving into action now to prepare themselves and their property.”

Forecasters said they believe Hurricane Irene’s current predicted track will come close enough to give Sussex County the strongest effects of the storm, with tidal flooding likely in low-lying areas, particularly along the oceanfront, Inland Bays and the Delaware Bay shoreline.

Residents and property owners should secure loose objects, such as lawn chairs and trash cans, to prevent storm winds from turning those items into potential projectiles. Also, residents in low-lying tidal areas should make sure submersible pumps are working and check storm drains to ensure they are clear of debris. Vehicles should be relocated from flood-prone areas.

“The Sussex County EOC encourages residents and visitors to continue monitoring the tropics and conditions as they deteriorate.”

For updates, they said, stay tuned to local television and radio stations, the Sussex County EOC Web site at www.sussexcountyde.gov/services/storm, and the County’s Twitter feeds at www.twitter.com/sussex_pio and www.twitter.com/sussexctyde_eoc. The public should also monitor the National Weather Service, at www.nws.noaa.gov/er/phi, for the latest forecast. Coastal Point will also continue to pass along information and provide updates on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/coastalpoint and our Twitter feed at @coastalpoint.com.

For helpful tips on what to do in preparation for a hurricane, including the County evacuation map and other preparedness materials, visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/services/storm.
For more information, call the Sussex County EOC at (302) 855-7801.

Bethany urges visitors to stay away, residents to prepare; cancels entertainment

Bethany Beach officials on Thursday also urged visitors to leave the area and residents to begin to prepare in case they need to leave for safety reasons.

“Hurricane Irene will be passing off our coast much closer than originally expected, and its impact on our area will be potentially far greater than expected,” they said in a public announcement mid-day on Thursday, having already urged residents to prepare for the storm.

“Effective immediately, we strongly urge you to encourage friends and relatives to not visit Bethany Beach until after the storm passes, and if you are planning on visiting Bethany Beach, we encourage you to postpone those plans until the situation improves,” they said.

“Also, we strongly urge you to please start making preparations to voluntarily leave the local area for safety reasons. We suggest you travel inland to relatives, friends or motels. We ask that you please do not delay your plans to evacuate as evacuations routes may become congested and or flooded as this significant storm draws near.”

Weather conditions were expected to start to deteriorate Friday night and Saturday morning. Later Saturday and Sunday, emergency officials noted, it is very likely that the area will experience winds of greater than 100 mph, a potential of possibly 12 inches of rain, wave heights of 24 feet and back-bay surges of 2 to 5 feet.

“There is the potential for major flooding in Bethany Beach,” town officials emphasized. “Hurricane Irene is a very large and dangerous storm. Please take our suggestions seriously.”

Questions and concerns about the storm and related activities as they impact Bethany Beach can be directed to the Bethany Beach Police Department at (302) 539-1000.

UPDATED: Bethany, Freeman Stage cancel entertainment

Due to the storm, Bethany Beach has already canceled all of its boardwalk bandstand entertainment from Friday through Sunday: Beth Ann Cayhall, Cole Younger and USNA Next Wave. They will not be rescheduled for 2011. The town still plans to hold its Grand Finale Weekend from Friday, Sept. 2, through Labor Day Monday. For more information on the bandstand entertainment, call (302) 539-5484.

As of Thursday evening, the Freeman Stage at Bayside's Thursday night performance with Beth Cayhall was still scheduled to take place. Freeman Stage representatives said they were, however, cancelling Friday night's performance with the Washington National Opera and Saturday's kids workshop with Beth Cayhall. If either of these performances are to be rescheduled at a later date, they said they would announce that information.

UPDATED: Ocean City orders mandatory evacuation of all visitors, residents starting at midnight

Ocean City (Md.) Emergency Management officials announced Thursday afternoon that they would initiate Phase 3 of the town’s hurricane action plan in preparation for Hurricane Irene. Phase 3 will go into effect at midnight Friday (Thursday night).

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan has signed a proclamation declaring a local State of Emergency.

All persons other than identified emergency personnel are ordered to evacuate. Visitors are asked to return to their principle residences. Ocean City residents are asked to seek shelter elsewhere.

Utilizing the authority under a local State of Emergency, the mayor is banning the sale of all alcohol in Ocean City and requests that all businesses close beginning at midnight.

All incoming traffic to Ocean City, Md., will be limited to emergency personnel. No other vehicles will be permitted entry to the island, except by approved authority (mayor, city manager and emergency services director).

The Ocean City Municipal Transportation System is providing transportation for special-needs individuals. For special needs transportation, call Ocean City Transportation at (410) 723-1606. International student workforce evacuation continues and will be completed by tomorrow morning, officials said Thursday

The Ocean City Government Cable Access Channel 4, the Ocean City Web site www.ocmdemergency.com, recorded emergency management line, (410) 723-6666 and Ocean City advisory radio station 1670 AM will remain operational for further advisories.

Ocean City is expected to receive a significant impact from Hurricane Irene. Easterly gale-force winds should start affecting the area on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 5 p.m., with hurricane-force winds arriving around 4 a.m. and lasting for a period of eight hours. The highest wind speeds from Hurricane Irene should occur near 9 a.m., when top sustained winds, from the north, could reach 90 mph with gusts near 120 mph. Winds should decrease below hurricane force shortly thereafter.

Sustained winds will fall below gale force after 3 p.m. and generally be from the north during this period of decreasing winds. Expect gusts above gale force level for several more hours thereafter.

The total rainfall for the Ocean City area over the next three days is forecast to be 9.5 inches. This can vary significantly as tropical storm and hurricane rainfall is very difficult to predict.

Storm surge is expected to be 6 feet above normal high-tide cycles, resulting in significant flooding in low-lying areas.

UPDATED: Boat owners encouraged to secure their vessels

DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section and the Delaware Office of Boating Safety are encouraging boaters to take steps to protect their vessels as Hurricane Irene approaches.

If time allows, officials said, boat owners are being advised to trailer boats and move them to higher ground in an area offering some shelter from high winds if possible. For boats that must remain docked in the water, owners are advised to put on extra lines. Using long lines to accommodate storm surge and pulling the lines fairly taut in multiple directions – like a spider web with the boat caught in the center – helps keep the boat in position and away from pilings.

Owners, they said, should also remove parts that can catch the wind, including canvas covers, bimini tops, sails, rigging and dinghies. Loose items or items that can come loose, such as antennas and electronics, should be stored on land or below decks with doors and hatches closed and secured.

“Last but not least, when bad weather approaches, boat owners should monitor weather reports closely and not be tempted to venture out on the water when high seas, heavy rain and strong winds are predicted,” said Sgt. Gregory Rhodes, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement.

Power outages anticipated, preparation urged

Hurricane Irene is expected to bring heavy rain and high winds into the area beginning Saturday evening and extending into Sunday, which Delaware Electric Cooperative representatives noted could cause widespread and extended power outages.

“Should any disruption of service occur please know that your Co-op will work hard to restore your power safely and as quickly as possible,” they said Thursday. “Delaware Electric Cooperative wants to remind everyone that preparing for a power outage as a result of severe weather is extremely important.”

They urged everyone to assemble an outage kit and follow a series of recommendations to help ensure their families’ safety and comfort.

The kit should include: flashlights; batteries; First Aid kit; paper plates, cups and plastic utensils; a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio or TV; extra blankets or sleeping bags; water; a portable fire extinguisher; candles and matches; canned goods or easily prepared foods; a hand-operated can-opener; and necessary prescription drugs.

Delaware Electric Co-op urged people to never touch or go near fallen wires, even if they think they are safe. Parents can use this opportunity, they said, to remind children that wires are dangerous. If you are in a vehicle that comes in contact with a downed wire, stay in your vehicle until help arrives, they advised. If an electric pump supplies your water, fill spare food-grade containers with water for cooking and washing, in anticipation of a possible power interruption.

They also recommended people keep refrigerator doors closed. Food will keep several hours in a closed refrigerator and up to two days in a freezer. If you must open the door, be quick, they said. If you have an elderly neighbor, be a Good Samaritan and check on their status. Even a quick telephone call can provide assurance that help is nearby if needed, they said.

Delaware Electric Cooperative members living in Sussex County who experience an outage should call the emergency service line at (302) 349-9009.

Storm could cause hazardous driving conditions

AAA Mid-Atlantic warned drivers on Thursday that the storm’s new track means more people could have catastrophic impacts from Irene in the Northeast, beginning Saturday night in southern Virginia and lasting into Monday in New England, with heavy rain reaching as far as western Maryland, Central Pennsylvania and central and western New York.

Even though Irene should weaken some, it will still bring hurricane force winds, extreme rainfall, significant coastal flooding and a tornado threat, quickly reducing visibility and creating dangerous driving conditions on area roads, they said, reminding motorists to take extra precautions when driving in severe weather.

“In wet conditions and during severe storms, it is important to remember that you can’t see as well, can’t stop as fast and definitely shouldn’t drive as fast,” said Jim Lardear, director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The first rule of thumb is if you don’t have to drive – don’t! Irene is expected to move into our area over the weekend, so people should prepare in advance so you are not on the road unnecessarily during this forceful storm. However, if motorists must get on the road, it is critical that they take steps to see and be seen in these conditions.”

AAA suggests that motorists take the following actions before, during and after the storm in order to remain safe:

Before the storm

• Gas up your car.

• Clear your windshield and windows on the inside and outside, and ensure that your window wipers are in good shape.

• Be sure your tires are properly inflated.

• Check that all your lights are working properly.

• Remove excess items from the car and trunk, and replace them with an emergency road service kit. Some important items to carry in the emergency kit include: flashlight with extra batteries; reflective triangles; fire extinguisher; jumper cables; first aid kit; jack and spare tire; rain gear or extra clothing; and pocket knife. On long trips, pack a few non-perishable food and drink items, like granola bars, cans of juice, etc.

• Review maps and plan an evacuation route, if needed – including an alternate, Plan B. Keep them together with important contacts, and include someone outside the region who can serve as a central information gatherer for family members in the hurricane zone. Charge up cell phones and walkie-talkies, and buy any extra batteries needed.

During the storm

• Heed the warnings of emergency officials and observe road closure signs -- do not attempt to drive on closed roads or into evacuated areas. Stay tuned to local news alerts and government agency (i.e. DelDOT) updates regarding road closures/restrictions, storm damage, emergency relief efforts, etc.

• Turn on windshield wipers and head lights (not just daytime running lights) as soon as rain begins to fall. If intermittent wipers are used, be certain they are set to a speed that will clear the windshield before visibility is compromised.

• If windows begin to fog, turn on the car’s defroster. Air conditioning may be comfortable, but warmer temperatures clear windshields of steam more quickly.

• Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility.

• Slow down. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. Rain decreases visibility and increases braking distances.

• Increase following distances. Normal dry pavement following distance (2-3) seconds should be increased to 8 seconds or more when driving on slippery surfaces. While driving, train your eyes farther down the road than normal, so you’ll be able to anticipate changes and adjust your course gradually.

• Wet surfaces require careful and precise steering movements. Skids can be avoided by anticipating lane changes, turns and curves; slowing down in advance; and by making smooth, exact steering movements. Driving in other vehicle’s tracks can improve traction and help you avoid hydroplaning.

• Drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles must remember they are not immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces. Four-wheel drive cars are just as likely to lose traction on wet roads as any other vehicle.

• Be wary of high wind conditions. Larger trucks are more affected by high winds, so give them plenty of room on the roadways.

• Watch out for debris or downed wires on the roadways as a result of the high winds. If in a vehicle or on a piece of equipment that is in contact with a downed power line, the best rule is to stay there until help arrives. If there is an imminent danger, such a fire, stand on the door frame or edge of the vehicle and jump clear with both feet at the same time. Do not make contact with anything on the vehicle or equipment so that your body does not become a pathway for the electricity to reach the earth.

• Do not attempt to cross any standing water on the roads that looks too deep. Just six inches can make you lose control of your car and two feet of water will carry away most cars. Nearly half of the people who die in flash floods are in automobiles, because they underestimate water’s power or don’t act quickly enough to escape.

• Try to avoid bridges and roads that are known to flood. Cross them only if there is little standing or streaming water.

• If visibility is limited to the edge of the road and other vehicles cannot be seen, pull over and wait for the rain to let up.

• If you are forced to stop in traffic due to poor visibility, turn on emergency flashers immediately and pull as far off the road as possible, preferably at the end of a guide rail. If possible, pull into a rest area or parking lot or other protected area.

After the storm

• If your car has been damaged, take pictures of the damage for insurance claims and contact your service agent.

• If power lines are on your vehicle, do not attempt to remove them nor touch the vehicle. Contact the local power company for assistance.

• If the vehicle has been flooded, contact a qualified automotive technician before attempting to start a flood-damaged car.

• Have the technician inspect all mechanical components including the engine, transmission, steering system, axles, and fuel system for water contamination. Also have the technician drain floodwater from contaminated systems and flush with clean water or a solvent, as appropriate. All contaminated fluids, such as oil, transmission fluid, and engine coolant should be drained and replaced.

“As Irene crashes into our region, driving can become very hazardous, very quickly,” said Lardear. “Heavy rain, high winds, and standing water on roads create some of the worst driving conditions, largely because unlike snow, drivers cannot see it as readily. Following these tips will help to ensure that you and your vehicle remain safe.”

AAA also reminded motorists of Delaware’s headlights/windshield wiper law – headlights must be on when windshield wipers are in use because of inclement weather.

For real-time traffic advisories, interactive traffic cameras and evacuation routes in Delaware visit www.deldot.gov.

DDA joins DPI in urging poultry growers to be prepared for hurricane Irene

The Delaware Department of Agriculture is joining the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. in urging poultry growers to be prepared for Hurricane Irene.

Ed Kee, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture said, “The Weather Service indicates that there is a very strong possibility that hurricane Irene will seriously impact Delaware. I am urging all poultry growers to review their emergency plans and take immediate steps to ensure the safety of their flocks. The Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. has developed a list of excellent recommendations for commercial poultry growers that should be followed at this time.”

Recommendations for commercial poultry growers from the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.

• Make sure you check your back-up generator. Have adequate fuel for several days of operations. Make sure automatic starting systems are ready to go.

• If you have no electricity whatsoever, monitor house conditions more frequently and make adjustments as needed.

• Make sure you have adequate propane gas and arrange an earlier than normal delivery if necessary.

• Check your feed inventory and notify your poultry company if you believe a delivery will be needed before the next normal delivery.

• If strong winds knock down trees, make your farm lanes and houses accessible to delivery vehicles.

• Secure outside objects so they don’t blow and cause damage.

• Make sure cell phones are fully charged in case land-line telephone service is lost.

• Check security of roofing materials, chicken house siding, and windows/doors to make sure they will not blow off or blow open. Corners and edges of buildings are particularly vulnerable.

• Make plans for larger than normal carcass disposal. Consider in-house composting if practical.

• Be prepared to keep birds longer than normal in case processing plants are unable to operate.

State veterinarian puts livestock and small flock owners on alert

Dr. Heather Hirst, State Veterinarian, on Thursday afternoon was warning livestock and small-flock owners that, according to latest weather reports, Hurricane Irene may adversely impact Delaware. Hirst urged animal owners to review their emergency plans in preparation for high winds and flooding.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of pre-planning and preparation. Think about where you might be able to move animals in case of flooding. Evaluate your outbuildings for how well they might withstand hurricane winds. We have seen animals injured and killed in the past when they were trapped in buildings that collapsed during high winds.”

The Delaware Animal Response program, under the supervision of Elainea Goldthwaite, has put together recommendations for livestock owners that can be implemented before the emergency or disaster strikes. Hirst urged all livestock owners to become familiar with the following recommendations and put them into action as hurricane Irene approaches.

DAR recommendations for livestock and small flock owners before emergency or disaster strikes:

• Check and secure all buildings and enclosures. Repair or secure loose boards, doors, window covers, tin sheeting, wire, and equipment that may blow around in high winds and injure or kill livestock and backyard poultry

• You may decide to keep your animals indoors, but it is also critical to consider the relative safety of a large enclosed pasture. Whether you decide to keep your animals indoors, or within the confines of a large enclosed pasture, it is critical to consider the relative safety of each option in relation to your individual situation

If you decide to confine or shelter your livestock indoors, be sure to consider the structure strength and how it will hold up during high winds and torrential rain

If you decide to give your animals the option of moving outside of their barn/stable during the storm: Survey your property to find the best location to confine your animals; do not let animals become trapped in low-lying pens which may be subject to flooding; area should large enough to provide animals space to move around to avoid blowing debris; area should have no overhead power lines or poles.

• Provide alternate water sources in case power is lost and pumps and automatic waterers are not working after the disaster.

• Whether you shelter animals indoors or out in the field, have enough food and water on-hand for seven days. Move feed to higher ground to prevent moisture and mold contamination

• Mark animals with an identifier so they can be returned to you if lost. Identifiers may include ear tags with the name of farm and/or phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coat, or clipped initials in the hair coat. Leg bands can be used for backyard poultry identification

• Stock up on basic veterinary supplies and if time allows, make sure livestock are current on vaccinations.

• If you decide to evacuate your livestock, determine several locations the animals could be taken, several routes to these locations and the entry requirements for each. Make arrangements in advance with the owner/operators to accept your animals and be sure to contact them before taking the animals there. Locations that could be used for evacuation are private stables, race tracks, fair grounds, equestrian centers, private farms and humane societies.

• For more information on emergency preparedness for pets, livestock, and poultry, contact: Elainea Goldthwaite, DAR Coordinator, Delaware Department of Agriculture, Office of the State Veterinarian, (302) 698-4500 (Department of Agriculture), (800) 282-8685 (Delaware only), (302) 698-4622 (DAR office), E-mail elainea.goldthwaite@state.de.us.

NOTE: We will be updating this story as developments warrant. Please "Like" Coastal Point on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (links above) for other important and timely information, as updates there will likely happen on a more frequent basis during this severe-weather event and the storm's impacts on the Internet and other infrastructure could make mobile updates our primary mode of communicating important information to you.
act their household and business emergency plans and follow directions from state officials,” emergency officials said. “Those plans should include preparing for periods without travel or power, as well as securing objects around homes and businesses that may be affected by high winds.”

County officials urge people in low-lying areas to consider moving to higher ground now

Forecasters on Thursday said they expected Hurricane Irene could bring Sussex County and the Mid-Atlantic region hurricane-force winds, severe tidal flooding, and torrential rains beginning as early as Saturday morning and lasting through midday Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast had the center of the Category 3 storm, with sustained winds of 115 mph, to pass approximately 40 mph to 50 miles off the Delaware coast late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. At that time, the storm may be slightly less intense, at Category 2 status, with sustained winds of 100 mph. Still, the storm would be potent and close enough to Delaware to pose a serious threat to lives and property, county officials said.

Forecasters said they do not expect Sussex County to sustain a direct hit from the eye of the storm. However, sustained winds of 50 to 75 mph or greater, with gusts to 100 mph, particularly along the immediate coast, are possible throughout the event. In the meantime, the storm could create a surge of 2 to 5 feet of water along the oceanfront, Inland Bays and Delaware Bay, kick up swells of 12 to 24 feet on the seas and dump as much as a foot of rain across the county.

“No evacuations have been ordered, and no shelters have been designated at this time. However, Sussex County Emergency Operations Center officials are in close contact with State emergency planners this morning about the possibility of issuing an evacuation order for select communities and activating designated shelters,” said county Public Information Officer Chip Guy.

The public was reminded to have supply kits ready, know the evacuation routes and plan ahead on where to relocate, if needed. Residents in low-lying areas – particularly in the communities of Long Neck, Broadkill, Prime Hook, Slaughter Beach and Oak Orchard, as well as along the Route 1 corridor, including the Fenwick Island and Bethany Beach areas – should consider now relocating to safer, higher ground.

“This is a very dangerous storm we’re facing, and it looks more like a certainty than a possibility,” said Joseph L. Thomas, director of Sussex County EOC. “The public needs to take this threat seriously, and residents, property owners and visitors should be moving into action now to prepare themselves and their property.”

Forecasters said they believe Hurricane Irene’s current predicted track will come close enough to give Sussex County the strongest effects of the storm, with tidal flooding likely in low-lying areas, particularly along the oceanfront, Inland Bays and the Delaware Bay shoreline.

Residents and property owners should secure loose objects, such as lawn chairs and trash cans, to prevent storm winds from turning those items into potential projectiles. Also, residents in low-lying tidal areas should make sure submersible pumps are working and check storm drains to ensure they are clear of debris. Vehicles should be relocated from flood-prone areas.

“The Sussex County EOC encourages residents and visitors to continue monitoring the tropics and conditions as they deteriorate.”

For updates, they said, stay tuned to local television and radio stations, the Sussex County EOC Web site at www.sussexcountyde.gov/services/storm, and the County’s Twitter feeds at www.twitter.com/sussex_pio and www.twitter.com/sussexctyde_eoc. The public should also monitor the National Weather Service, at www.nws.noaa.gov/er/phi, for the latest forecast. Coastal Point will also continue to pass along information and provide updates on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/coastalpoint and our Twitter feed at @coastalpoint.com.

For helpful tips on what to do in preparation for a hurricane, including the County evacuation map and other preparedness materials, visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/services/storm.
For more information, call the Sussex County EOC at (302) 855-7801.

Bethany urges visitors to stay away, residents to prepare; cancels entertainment

Bethany Beach officials on Thursday also urged visitors to leave the area and residents to begin to prepare in case they need to leave for safety reasons.

“Hurricane Irene will be passing off our coast much closer than originally expected, and its impact on our area will be potentially far greater than expected,” they said in a public announcement mid-day on Thursday, having already urged residents to prepare for the storm.

“Effective immediately, we strongly urge you to encourage friends and relatives to not visit Bethany Beach until after the storm passes, and if you are planning on visiting Bethany Beach, we encourage you to postpone those plans until the situation improves,” they said.

“Also, we strongly urge you to please start making preparations to voluntarily leave the local area for safety reasons. We suggest you travel inland to relatives, friends or motels. We ask that you please do not delay your plans to evacuate as evacuations routes may become congested and or flooded as this significant storm draws near.”

Weather conditions were expected to start to deteriorate Friday night and Saturday morning. Later Saturday and Sunday, emergency officials noted, it is very likely that the area will experience winds of greater than 100 mph, a potential of possibly 12 inches of rain, wave heights of 24 feet and back-bay surges of 2 to 5 feet.

“There is the potential for major flooding in Bethany Beach,” town officials emphasized. “Hurricane Irene is a very large and dangerous storm. Please take our suggestions seriously.”

Due to the storm, the town has already canceled all of its boardwalk bandstand entertainment from Friday through Sunday: Beth Ann Cayhall, Cole Younger and USNA Next Wave. They will not be rescheduled for 2011. The town still plans to hold its Grand Finale Weekend from Friday, Sept. 2, through Labor Day Monday. For more information on the bandstand entertainment, call (302) 539-5484.

Questions and concerns about the storm and related activities as they impact Bethany Beach can be directed to the Bethany Beach Police Department at (302) 539-1000.

UPDATED: Ocean City orders mandatory evacuation of all visitors, residents starting at midnight

Ocean City (Md.) Emergency Management officials announced Thursday afternoon that they would initiate Phase 3 of the town’s hurricane action plan in preparation for Hurricane Irene. Phase 3 will go into effect at midnight Friday (Thursday night).

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan has signed a proclamation declaring a local State of Emergency.

All persons other than identified emergency personnel are ordered to evacuate. Visitors are asked to return to their principle residences. Ocean City residents are asked to seek shelter elsewhere.

Utilizing the authority under a local State of Emergency, the mayor is banning the sale of all alcohol in Ocean City and requests that all businesses close beginning at midnight.

All incoming traffic to Ocean City, Md., will be limited to emergency personnel. No other vehicles will be permitted entry to the island, except by approved authority (mayor, city manager and emergency services director).

The Ocean City Municipal Transportation System is providing transportation for special-needs individuals. For special needs transportation, call Ocean City Transportation at (410) 723-1606. International student workforce evacuation continues and will be completed by tomorrow morning, officials said Thursday

The Ocean City Government Cable Access Channel 4, the Ocean City Web site www.ocmdemergency.com, recorded emergency management line, (410) 723-6666 and Ocean City advisory radio station 1670 AM will remain operational for further advisories.

Ocean City is expected to receive a significant impact from Hurricane Irene. Easterly gale-force winds should start affecting the area on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 5 p.m., with hurricane-force winds arriving around 4 a.m. and lasting for a period of eight hours. The highest wind speeds from Hurricane Irene should occur near 9 a.m., when top sustained winds, from the north, could reach 90 mph with gusts near 120 mph. Winds should decrease below hurricane force shortly thereafter.

Sustained winds will fall below gale force after 3 p.m. and generally be from the north during this period of decreasing winds. Expect gusts above gale force level for several more hours thereafter.

The total rainfall for the Ocean City area over the next three days is forecast to be 9.5 inches. This can vary significantly as tropical storm and hurricane rainfall is very difficult to predict.

Storm surge is expected to be 6 feet above normal high-tide cycles, resulting in significant flooding in low-lying areas.

Power outages anticipated, preparation urged

Hurricane Irene is expected to bring heavy rain and high winds into the area beginning Saturday evening and extending into Sunday, which Delaware Electric Cooperative representatives noted could cause widespread and extended power outages.

“Should any disruption of service occur please know that your Co-op will work hard to restore your power safely and as quickly as possible,” they said Thursday. “Delaware Electric Cooperative wants to remind everyone that preparing for a power outage as a result of severe weather is extremely important.”

They urged everyone to assemble an outage kit and follow a series of recommendations to help ensure their families’ safety and comfort.

The kit should include: flashlights; batteries; First Aid kit; paper plates, cups and plastic utensils; a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio or TV; extra blankets or sleeping bags; water; a portable fire extinguisher; candles and matches; canned goods or easily prepared foods; a hand-operated can-opener; and necessary prescription drugs.

Delaware Electric Co-op urged people to never touch or go near fallen wires, even if they think they are safe. Parents can use this opportunity, they said, to remind children that wires are dangerous. If you are in a vehicle that comes in contact with a downed wire, stay in your vehicle until help arrives, they advised. If an electric pump supplies your water, fill spare food-grade containers with water for cooking and washing, in anticipation of a possible power interruption.

They also recommended people keep refrigerator doors closed. Food will keep several hours in a closed refrigerator and up to two days in a freezer. If you must open the door, be quick, they said. If you have an elderly neighbor, be a Good Samaritan and check on their status. Even a quick telephone call can provide assurance that help is nearby if needed, they said.

Delaware Electric Cooperative members living in Sussex County who experience an outage should call the emergency service line at (302) 349-9009.

Storm could cause hazardous driving conditions

AAA Mid-Atlantic warned drivers on Thursday that the storm’s new track means more people could have catastrophic impacts from Irene in the Northeast, beginning Saturday night in southern Virginia and lasting into Monday in New England, with heavy rain reaching as far as western Maryland, Central Pennsylvania and central and western New York.

Even though Irene should weaken some, it will still bring hurricane force winds, extreme rainfall, significant coastal flooding and a tornado threat, quickly reducing visibility and creating dangerous driving conditions on area roads, they said, reminding motorists to take extra precautions when driving in severe weather.

“In wet conditions and during severe storms, it is important to remember that you can’t see as well, can’t stop as fast and definitely shouldn’t drive as fast,” said Jim Lardear, director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The first rule of thumb is if you don’t have to drive – don’t! Irene is expected to move into our area over the weekend, so people should prepare in advance so you are not on the road unnecessarily during this forceful storm. However, if motorists must get on the road, it is critical that they take steps to see and be seen in these conditions.”

AAA suggests that motorists take the following actions before, during and after the storm in order to remain safe:

Before the storm

• Gas up your car.

• Clear your windshield and windows on the inside and outside, and ensure that your window wipers are in good shape.

• Be sure your tires are properly inflated.

• Check that all your lights are working properly.

• Remove excess items from the car and trunk, and replace them with an emergency road service kit. Some important items to carry in the emergency kit include: flashlight with extra batteries; reflective triangles; fire extinguisher; jumper cables; first aid kit; jack and spare tire; rain gear or extra clothing; and pocket knife. On long trips, pack a few non-perishable food and drink items, like granola bars, cans of juice, etc.

• Review maps and plan an evacuation route, if needed – including an alternate, Plan B. Keep them together with important contacts, and include someone outside the region who can serve as a central information gatherer for family members in the hurricane zone. Charge up cell phones and walkie-talkies, and buy any extra batteries needed.

During the storm

• Heed the warnings of emergency officials and observe road closure signs -- do not attempt to drive on closed roads or into evacuated areas. Stay tuned to local news alerts and government agency (i.e. DelDOT) updates regarding road closures/restrictions, storm damage, emergency relief efforts, etc.

• Turn on windshield wipers and head lights (not just daytime running lights) as soon as rain begins to fall. If intermittent wipers are used, be certain they are set to a speed that will clear the windshield before visibility is compromised.

• If windows begin to fog, turn on the car’s defroster. Air conditioning may be comfortable, but warmer temperatures clear windshields of steam more quickly.

• Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility.

• Slow down. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. Rain decreases visibility and increases braking distances.

• Increase following distances. Normal dry pavement following distance (2-3) seconds should be increased to 8 seconds or more when driving on slippery surfaces. While driving, train your eyes farther down the road than normal, so you’ll be able to anticipate changes and adjust your course gradually.

• Wet surfaces require careful and precise steering movements. Skids can be avoided by anticipating lane changes, turns and curves; slowing down in advance; and by making smooth, exact steering movements. Driving in other vehicle’s tracks can improve traction and help you avoid hydroplaning.

• Drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles must remember they are not immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces. Four-wheel drive cars are just as likely to lose traction on wet roads as any other vehicle.

• Be wary of high wind conditions. Larger trucks are more affected by high winds, so give them plenty of room on the roadways.

• Watch out for debris or downed wires on the roadways as a result of the high winds. If in a vehicle or on a piece of equipment that is in contact with a downed power line, the best rule is to stay there until help arrives. If there is an imminent danger, such a fire, stand on the door frame or edge of the vehicle and jump clear with both feet at the same time. Do not make contact with anything on the vehicle or equipment so that your body does not become a pathway for the electricity to reach the earth.

• Do not attempt to cross any standing water on the roads that looks too deep. Just six inches can make you lose control of your car and two feet of water will carry away most cars. Nearly half of the people who die in flash floods are in automobiles, because they underestimate water’s power or don’t act quickly enough to escape.

• Try to avoid bridges and roads that are known to flood. Cross them only if there is little standing or streaming water.

• If visibility is limited to the edge of the road and other vehicles cannot be seen, pull over and wait for the rain to let up.

• If you are forced to stop in traffic due to poor visibility, turn on emergency flashers immediately and pull as far off the road as possible, preferably at the end of a guide rail. If possible, pull into a rest area or parking lot or other protected area.

After the storm

• If your car has been damaged, take pictures of the damage for insurance claims and contact your service agent.

• If power lines are on your vehicle, do not attempt to remove them nor touch the vehicle. Contact the local power company for assistance.

• If the vehicle has been flooded, contact a qualified automotive technician before attempting to start a flood-damaged car.

• Have the technician inspect all mechanical components including the engine, transmission, steering system, axles, and fuel system for water contamination. Also have the technician drain floodwater from contaminated systems and flush with clean water or a solvent, as appropriate. All contaminated fluids, such as oil, transmission fluid, and engine coolant should be drained and replaced.

“As Irene crashes into our region, driving can become very hazardous, very quickly,” said Lardear. “Heavy rain, high winds, and standing water on roads create some of the worst driving conditions, largely because unlike snow, drivers cannot see it as readily. Following these tips will help to ensure that you and your vehicle remain safe.”

AAA also reminded motorists of Delaware’s headlights/windshield wiper law – headlights must be on when windshield wipers are in use because of inclement weather.

For real-time traffic advisories, interactive traffic cameras and evacuation routes in Delaware visit www.deldot.gov.

DDA joins DPI in urging poultry growers to be prepared for hurricane Irene

The Delaware Department of Agriculture is joining the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. in urging poultry growers to be prepared for Hurricane Irene.

Ed Kee, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture said, “The Weather Service indicates that there is a very strong possibility that hurricane Irene will seriously impact Delaware. I am urging all poultry growers to review their emergency plans and take immediate steps to ensure the safety of their flocks. The Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. has developed a list of excellent recommendations for commercial poultry growers that should be followed at this time.”

Recommendations for commercial poultry growers from the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.

• Make sure you check your back-up generator. Have adequate fuel for several days of operations. Make sure automatic starting systems are ready to go.

• If you have no electricity whatsoever, monitor house conditions more frequently and make adjustments as needed.

• Make sure you have adequate propane gas and arrange an earlier than normal delivery if necessary.

• Check your feed inventory and notify your poultry company if you believe a delivery will be needed before the next normal delivery.

• If strong winds knock down trees, make your farm lanes and houses accessible to delivery vehicles.

• Secure outside objects so they don’t blow and cause damage.

• Make sure cell phones are fully charged in case land-line telephone service is lost.

• Check security of roofing materials, chicken house siding, and windows/doors to make sure they will not blow off or blow open. Corners and edges of buildings are particularly vulnerable.

• Make plans for larger than normal carcass disposal. Consider in-house composting if practical.

• Be prepared to keep birds longer than normal in case processing plants are unable to operate.

State veterinarian puts livestock and small flock owners on alert

Dr. Heather Hirst, State Veterinarian, on Thursday afternoon was warning livestock and small-flock owners that, according to latest weather reports, Hurricane Irene may adversely impact Delaware. Hirst urged animal owners to review their emergency plans in preparation for high winds and flooding.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of pre-planning and preparation. Think about where you might be able to move animals in case of flooding. Evaluate your outbuildings for how well they might withstand hurricane winds. We have seen animals injured and killed in the past when they were trapped in buildings that collapsed during high winds.”

The Delaware Animal Response program, under the supervision of Elainea Goldthwaite, has put together recommendations for livestock owners that can be implemented before the emergency or disaster strikes. Hirst urged all livestock owners to become familiar with the following recommendations and put them into action as hurricane Irene approaches.

DAR recommendations for livestock and small flock owners before emergency or disaster strikes:

• Check and secure all buildings and enclosures. Repair or secure loose boards, doors, window covers, tin sheeting, wire, and equipment that may blow around in high winds and injure or kill livestock and backyard poultry

• You may decide to keep your animals indoors, but it is also critical to consider the relative safety of a large enclosed pasture. Whether you decide to keep your animals indoors, or within the confines of a large enclosed pasture, it is critical to consider the relative safety of each option in relation to your individual situation

If you decide to confine or shelter your livestock indoors, be sure to consider the structure strength and how it will hold up during high winds and torrential rain

If you decide to give your animals the option of moving outside of their barn/stable during the storm: Survey your property to find the best location to confine your animals; do not let animals become trapped in low-lying pens which may be subject to flooding; area should large enough to provide animals space to move around to avoid blowing debris; area should have no overhead power lines or poles.

• Provide alternate water sources in case power is lost and pumps and automatic waterers are not working after the disaster.

• Whether you shelter animals indoors or out in the field, have enough food and water on-hand for seven days. Move feed to higher ground to prevent moisture and mold contamination

• Mark animals with an identifier so they can be returned to you if lost. Identifiers may include ear tags with the name of farm and/or phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coat, or clipped initials in the hair coat. Leg bands can be used for backyard poultry identification

• Stock up on basic veterinary supplies and if time allows, make sure livestock are current on vaccinations.

• If you decide to evacuate your livestock, determine several locations the animals could be taken, several routes to these locations and the entry requirements for each. Make arrangements in advance with the owner/operators to accept your animals and be sure to contact them before taking the animals there. Locations that could be used for evacuation are private stables, race tracks, fair grounds, equestrian centers, private farms and humane societies.

• For more information on emergency preparedness for pets, livestock, and poultry, contact: Elainea Goldthwaite, DAR Coordinator, Delaware Department of Agriculture, Office of the State Veterinarian, (302) 698-4500 (Department of Agriculture), (800) 282-8685 (Delaware only), (302) 698-4622 (DAR office), E-mail elainea.goldthwaite@state.de.us.

NOTE: We will be updating this story as developments warrant. Please "Like" Coastal Point on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (links above) for other important and timely information, as updates there will likely happen on a more frequent basis during this severe-weather event and the storm's impacts on the Internet and other infrastructure could make mobile updates our primary mode of communicating important information to you.