High winds, heavy rains hit Delaware
A strong, coastal storm is already battering the Delaware coast and is expected to cause minor flooding at high tides on Monday. 1/23/17 Chuck Snyder/Special to The News Journal
A coastal storm with high winds usually brings fears of beach erosion, but on Monday Delaware shorelines mostly withstood Mother Nature's latest assault.
At high tide Monday morning and later in the afternoon in Rehoboth Beach, waves rolled over the beach and reached the edge of the protective sand dunes, said Tony Pratt, state shoreline and waterway administrator. Rehoboth and Dewey beaches just received an infusion of sand to replace losses from storms in October 2015 and January 2016.
Pratt said that even at Bethany Beach, the waves seemed to be rolling up the beach.
"I don't think there is a lot to worry about," he said.
The storm, he said, is different from what our coastline used to receive. In the past, he said, the big storms formed off Cape Hatteras. They built to the south and waves traveled hundreds of miles to slam into the Delaware coast. This storm and other recent ones have formed farther north. In this case, the storm is building off Virginia Beach, he said.
That means that waves don't have the same long stretch of ocean to roll across and build strength.
These storms have more impact to the north along the coasts of New Jersey, New York's Long Island and New England, he said.
The Weather Service is forecasting the worst of the wind, the rain and the flooding for coastal New Jersey.
That doesn't mean Delaware was spared. The storm caused flooding at high tides, some beach erosion and downed trees and power outages throughout the region.
A woman in northern Delaware was seriously injured Monday afternoon when a tree fell on top of her. And morning and afternoon commutes were hampered by standing water, flooded roads and high winds.
The weather was so intense in parts of Sussex County that Indian River School District canceled after-school and evening activities, including the Board of Education meeting, which was rescheduled for Jan. 30.
The school district also asked families who live along River Road in Oak Orchard to pick up their children at the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company rather than their normal bus stops. High water from Indian River made the road impassable in many areas.
The Coastal Highway from Dewey Beach both north and southbound to Bethany Beach was closed because of flooding and high water in the late afternoon.
"The sea is a little angry," said Jessica Waters, communications manager for the town of Ocean City, Maryland. "But it's not quite out of the ordinary for this sort of event."
Despite anecdotal reports of standing water in low-lying areas and waves sweeping over the inlet parking lot, and cautionary tales of flying debris including sheet metal, pink fiberglass insulation and a spoiler from a souped-up Honda Civic, Waters said she had only a few reports of flooding in the town and no accidents or injuries have been reported.
Elsewhere in the state, the Transportation Management Center urged people driving tractor trailers, box delivery trucks and other high-profile vehicles to avoid bridges.
"Drivers of passenger vehicles are encouraged to use extreme caution," said Jim Westhoff with DelDOT.
The storm has been a problem since it formed off the Pacific Coast more than a week ago. It moved south and east and spawned deadly tornadoes in Georgia and other southern states.
Early Monday, it made its way off the coast of North Carolina, said Frank Straite, a senior meteorologist with Accuweather.com.
Straite said the high winds were the result of the low-pressure system off the coast and a strong, high-pressure system off the Canadian Maritimes.
The difference in pressure caused high winds from the Delmarva Peninsula north to New York City, he said.
As the storm moves north, the winds should diminish and shift but it will still be windy through Tuesday, according to forecasters at the National Weather Service in Mt. Holly, New Jersey.
High winds and periods of heavy rain were seen across most of the state Monday morning, making for a soggy commute and downed trees and powerlines. Downstate, a strong coastal storm is expected to cause minor flooding at high tides. John J. Jankowski Jr. & Daniel Sato
The national weather forecast for Monday, January 23rd calls for heavy rain and winds in the east and west. USA TODAY NETWORK
Winds were forecast to top out at 65 mph along the New Jersey coast and reach 50 mph in parts of Delaware.
The University of Delaware Environmental Observing System reported sustained winds in excess of 38 miles per hour at Indian River Inlet with a peak gust of 44.8 at 1:30 p.m.
Delmarva Power responded to dozens of power outages impacting more than 1,500 people throughout the state. Cab Calloway School for the Arts and The Charter School of Wilmington, which share a building, closed because of an outage.
Besides the wind, the region was expected to see heavy rain, with New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania getting the worst of it.
The last major coastal storm to hit Delaware was last January.
Contact Molly Murray at (302) 463-3334 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MollyMurraytnj. Doug Ferrar at The Salisbury, Md. Daily Times contributed to this story.