Hurricane Sandy swings hard, community still standing

After anticipating Hurricane Sandy for days in advance, expecting the worst and hoping for the best, the area was hit with winds and rain from the brunt of the storm for most of the day and into the night on Monday as she made landfall near Atlantic City, N.J. In our area, there was widespread coastal and inland flooding, downed limbs and trees, but for the most part, the state faired well as a whole.

“Without minimizing the very real damage and destruction caused by this storm, particularly in our coastal areas, it thankfully appears that Hurricane Sandy did not cause the widespread statewide damage that the forecasts predicted as recently as yesterday afternoon,” said Gov. Jack Markell on Tuesday, after scaling back driving restrictions, but keeping the evacuation order in place in the hard-hit coastal and other flood-prone areas.

A limited State of Emergency had been put into effect Saturday evening starting at 8 p.m., and mandatory evacuation of residents in coastal areas and inland flood prone areas were to be completed by Sunday evening at 8 p.m. A higher level driving restriction was put in place for most of Monday, was lowered Tuesday morning, and was completely eliminated by Tuesday evening, although, to many, roads still were impassable or had water on them and people were still being discouraged from venturing out unless necessary.

As of Tuesday evening, a state of emergency remained in effect for Sussex County to keep evacuated areas safe and closed, but the State of Emergency had been lifted in Kent and New Castle counties.

Under the continued Sussex State of Emergency and evacuation order, the Governor’s Office said that state police, local police and National Guard personnel manning barricades would continue to restrict access to areas deemed unsafe. Flooded areas along the coast were to be subject to the high tide cycle Tuesday night that would make conditions worse before waters recede.

They also said Sussex residents who have questions about whether their community has been cleared can contact the Sussex Emergency Operations Center at (302) 856-7366.

Markell, who several times during the storm was in Sussex County, expressed his thanks to the first responders, volunteers and critical personnel who worked throughout the storm in operations centers, shelters and especially those out on the state’s highway, communities and coastline to prepare, respond and recover. He also thanked the media who helped keep the state’s residents up-to-date throughout the storm.

“When the storm was approaching, people pulled together to get ready. When the storm hit, people pulled together to stay off the roads and out of its way. Delawareans continue to work together to tackle the storm’s aftermath,” Markell said late Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, who was also in Sussex County, said he was pleased with how the state pulled together and how well the area held up.

“I was particularly heartened to hear that our beach renourishment efforts, of which the dune system from Fenwick to Lewes is a critical component, continued to play a major role in protecting homes and communities just as it did during Hurricane Irene. While we witnessed breaching and flooding, especially at the Indian River Inlet Bridge caused by high water and wind, our towns were protected by the dunes and additional sand provided by our federal and state funded renourishment projects over the past several years,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

He said the congressional delegation would continue to work with state and local officials to assess the damage.

“Yesterday, the President signed an emergency declaration for Delaware to provide additional federal resources. Right now, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is working with the state to determine specific needs and provide assistance.

“Again, I want to thank our many first responders, the hundreds of Delaware National Guard members, DelDOT (Delaware Department of Transportation) employees, Red Cross volunteers, Army Corps of Engineers, State Police, DNREC (Department of Natural Rescources) employees, Emergency Operations Center employees, and volunteer medical personal for their heroic efforts during this historic storm. The Delaware community rallied together, and I hope will continue to do so through donation-supported organizations like the Red Cross, as we rebuild and recover from Hurricane Sandy.”

Early Tuesday, DelDOT officials, as well as state troopers, the Delaware National Guard and Sussex County personnel, began inspections of road conditions, and county officials said they would continue those efforts throughout the day.

Sussex County officials posted video updates around the clock to keep residents abreast of the situation. They had posted their 10th by late Tuesday afternoon with news that clean-up and assessment was ongoing as Sandy steadily moved westward.

“It appears at first blush, despite the storm’s fury, Sussex County has been spared compared to the damage we are seeing in other parts of the East Coast,” said Chip Guy, spokesperson for the county on one of the video updates late Tuesday afternoon. “We are fortunate that we have had no deaths or significant injuries but we do have damage.”

Sussex County Emergency Operations Center director Joe Thomas said it was a little early to tell what all the damage is, but it does include what they had expected.

“It is too early to say just how much damage we have suffered, but it’s fair to say we’ve sustained something more than just a few scratches,” said Thomas on Tuesday. “Our survey teams are out there now, and as we expected they’re finding trees and power lines down, flooded roads, some structural damage to homes, the things you would expect with a storm as powerful and as long-lasting as this.”

By late Tuesday, the Cape Henlopen High School, the Indian River High School (IRHS) and Milford Middle School remained opened as shelters downstate with minimal occupants.

Glen Sholley, a volunteer with the American Red Cross, said the IRHS shelter had 351 clients at one time, with total population including emergency personnel and volunteers at around 375. He said people were welcomed in before noon on Sunday and by Tuesday morning all but a few had left.

“We got along great,” he said. “It was really smooth. We had snacks, coffee and cups and we were ready when they came in. We served lunch right away on Sunday and then dinner was served by the kitchen staff, and on Monday we served three meals as well.”

He thanked the AmeriCorps volunteer and said the school and staff were “fantastic.” Even though the IRHS facility was not a designated medical needs shelter, they did have two nurses and paramedic on hand and Cape Henlopen High School, being the designated medical needs shelter, had a doctor and a nurse on site, he explained.

“Our job is to walk around, tell jokes, and get people smiling,” he said of the volunteers. Because if they are smiling, all is good.”

The Indian River School District was closed through Wed., Oct. 31. Delaware Tech had closed classes and events for both Monday, Oct. 29 and Tuesday, Oct. 30. While they had re-opened Wed., Oct. 31 for classes, the 19th annual Today a& Tomorrow Conference, scheduled for Wed., Oct. 31 had been canceled.

As of Tuesday, Fenwick Island had posted information on their Web site that approximately 95 percent of the bayside was still experiencing 2 to 4 feet of water and town officials said they hoped to open Town Hall by Thursday, Nov. 1, but it would depend on the tide and initial clean-up operations.

Also on Tuesday, they said the National Guard had been requested to assist for the next 24 hours, as well as the Delaware State Police, and town officers would also be on duty. As of Tuesday evening, the National Guard was still not permitting anyone into town and if they left, they were being told they could not come back until noon Wednesday at the earliest.

Brett J. Warner, director of public works for Bethany Beach, posted online that the “dune system was instrumental in minimizing damage to beachfront properties, the boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue.”

He said the absence of ocean water entering Atlantic Avenue separated this storm from the storm in 1998. He did say the town experienced some rainwater flooding in the 100 and 200 blocks, east of Route 1 and south of Garfield Parkway, as well as the interior portions of Bethany West during the storm. On Tuesday morning, he said some minor flooding remained in the center sections of Fenwood Drive and Radial Drive.

“As of Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., all town roads west of Route 26, including North Pennsylvania Avenue, remain heavily flooded. Water on these roads varies from 6 to 30 inches deep,” he wrote, discouraging vehicle access. He also said the Loop Canal and North Pennsylvania Avenue remained flooded at a high level, as well, as from Route 1 to halfway between North Pennsylvania Avenue and North Atlantic Avenue.

All in all, with all the water, he said there was not a lot of damage to homes and the damage the did get was mostly localized.

“Although tidal flooding is among the highest that I have ever seen,” he wrote, “property damage as a whole appears to minimal. Most damage will be in the northern half of town. Houses at lower elevations in these areas may experience water damage due to these high flood waters. Floating debris in these flood waters and on roads will remain a problem in the immediate future.”

Mayor Kathy Jankowski, of South Bethany, posted on their Web site: “Thank God for the dune.” She continued to say the dune was still intact with minor erosion on the south end and a majority of the area was flooded on the bayside. She said once the water completely recedes, the Town would have a crew cleaning up as fast as possible.

Inland, the town of Selbyville fared well in the storm. By Tuesday morning, the ditches were already draining and the streets were clear, with only leaves and some debris on the road, according to Bob Dickerson, town administrator. The town lost electricity for a few hours Monday, but Public Works employees and town police ventured into the storm to clear storm drains.

“We’re just thankful that we didn’t have any damage and that we weren’t out of electricity very long,” said Dickerson.

Frankford officials said they, too, were fortunate.

“We did moderately well, considering what we could have had,” said Town Administrator Terry Truitt late Tuesday afternoon.

“We had no issues at the water plant, and while we did lose electricity due to a downed tree, it was up in about three to four hours. Delmarva Power did an exceptional job.”

She said there were two homes that had minor structural damage due to trees that came down, but the town as a whole was fortunate and they had no major loss of service.

Ocean View police reported Tuesday morning that the Ocean View area suffered very little damage from Hurricane Sandy.

According to Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, several homes in the Cottages and along the White’s Creek did experience flooding. However, no structural damage was reported. Power remained on throughout the event, he said.

Public Works personnel were busy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, removing debris and downed trees and limbs, he said. Police patrols have reported that roads within Ocean View were clear.

As many as 35 emergency personnel were stationed at the Ocean View Police Department. The personnel included representatives from the Ocean View Police, Ocean View Town Hall, Ocean View Pubic Works, Delaware State Police, Army National Guard, Sussex County Paramedics, DelDOT and others.

“Ocean View staff did a great job feeding and housing everyone,” McLaughlin noted.

Storm-related operations had been discontinued in Ocean View by Tuesday and the town has returned to normal operations, he said that afternoon.

Extra state police were also on hand and housed at Town Hall in Millville, explained Town Manager Debbie Botchie.

As expected, numerous power outages were reported across the county, but by late Tuesday, the number of people without power in Sussex County was less than 2,000. Utility crews were working to restore service and had asked that people be patient as restoration efforts could be a week or so in length.

By Wednesday, day-use areas at most Delaware State Parks were scheduled to reopen at 8 a.m. for normal operations although exceptions included the Brandywine Zoo upstate, and Cape Henlopen State Park and Delaware Seashore State Park, all of which remain closed for cleanup and assessment of Hurricane Sandy’s impact, would reamin so until further notice said officials.

In addition, they said while campsites, cabins and yurts at Lums Pond and Trap Pond State Parks were scheduled to reopen for normal operations on Wednesday as well, Killens Pond State Park campsites and cabins were scheduled to reopen on Thursday, Nov. 1. Campsites, cabins and cottages at Delaware Seashore and Cape Henlopen State Parks remain closed and they said they will reopen as soon “as is feasible.”

For up-to-date road and bridge closures, visit online.

The state has compiled a list of resources for “after the storm,” including what to do about flooded septic systems and wells, agricultural recovery, insurance reporting, property damage reporting, and traffic alerts. They ask that Sussex County residents call (302) 856-7366 so property damage reports can be compiled for the federal government for assistance. They ask that people not call DEMA directly.

For in-depth local information, or for questions about flooded wells, drinking water safety, food safety and other health issues, people call the Division of Public Health Storm Recovery from Wednesday, October 31 to Friday, November 2, 2012 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

State officials said call center hours may be subject to change due to call volume. For updated call center hours, visit the Division of Public Health website at online or follow the Twitter hashtags #SandyDe or #StormDE.

For those that have general questions about water quality or power outages these tips are offered by the NSF International, “The Public Health and Safety Company.”

Methods of purifying water

Both public and private water supplies can be compromised during extensive flooding. If you aren’t sure about the quality of your water supply, don’t drink it. There are several ways to purify water that may have been contaminated or comes from a questionable source.

Boiling water

Will destroy most bacteria, cysts and viruses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends boiling drinking water for a minimum of two to three minutes at a good rolling boil.

Liquid (not granular) household bleach

Should be free of additives or scents and contain a hypochlorite solution of at least 5.25 percent. The American Red Cross recommends adding 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water and letting the water stand for at least 30 minutes. If the water doesn’t have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. A filter certified for chlorine reduction can be used to reduce excess chlorine.

Purification tablets

If you have them in your emergency kit, be sure to follow the directions on the package. Chemical disinfectants are generally effective against most forms of bacteria and viruses, but may not kill intestinal parasites (cysts), so boiling or filtering for cysts may still be needed.

Determining if food in the refrigerator or freezer is still safe

• Perishable foods such as meat, milk and eggs need to be kept refrigerated at or below 40º F.

• Frozen foods need to be kept at or below 0º F. If the power is out, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The average refrigerator can usually keep food safely cold for about four hours if left unopened. A freezer may hold a safe temperature for 24 - 48 hours depending upon its fullness.

• Placing dry or block ice in the freezer or refrigerator can help keep foods cold for a longer period.

• Keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to help determine if food is being kept at the correct temperature. NSF certified food thermometers can be used to check the temperature of individual food items to make sure they haven’t exceeded 40º F.

What to keep and what to throw out

• Don’t rely on appearance or odor to determine if a food product is safe; most disease-causing organisms cannot be detected in this manner.

• Discard all food that came in contact with flood waters, including canned goods.

• Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers as there is no way to safely clean and sanitize them.

• Dishes and cookware that are heat resistant can be washed in a certified dishwasher on the sanitizing cycle or washed by hand and dipped in a 50 ppm bleach solution.

When in doubt, throw it out

• Although some may advise that some canned foods may be salvageable, it’s best not to take chances. Just throw them away.

Sanitizing Your Home

• When surfaces in homes are exposed to flood waters, fire or other potentially harmful residues, they need to be properly cleaned and sanitized. To avoid pushing dirt or bacteria further into your home, always start the cleaning process where food is prepared and work outward into the rest of the home.

• Surfaces should first be rinsed to remove visible dirt residue, then washed with a mixture of hot water and detergent. After cleaning, rinse the surface with clean, potable water and allow to dry. Sanitizing can be accomplished using a bleach/water mixture or other sanitizing agent specifically formulated to kill germs and bacteria.

Proper hand washing

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most important thing that you can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness is to wash your hands. While hand sanitizers can help kill germs, they are not as effective as hand washing at removing dirt and soil.

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