Update: The state's level one driving warning remains in effect, and state officials said this morning they are "continually monitoring the road conditions in order to lift the State of Emergency as soon as it is safe to do so."
Delaware Department of Transportation crews remained on the job overnight and early this morning plowing and salting roads in an effort to make them safe. But a spokesman said temperatures in the single digits and strong winds hinder efforts as "temperature below 10 degrees make salt less effective at melting ice and snow and high winds cause snow to drift back over areas already plowed."
Motorists are asked to stay off the roads unless their travel is absolutely necessary. Roads will be icy in spots and secondary and suburban streets will be snow covered in locations. Bridges, ramps and other elevated surfaces may be slippery, officials said.
The National Weather Service reported 4 degrees in Dover this morning with a wind chill factor of -16 degrees. Winds are 18 mph with gusts of 25. In Lewes and Milford, the service reported temperatures of 7 degrees with a wind chill of -7.
All public school districts, state and downstate county offices and city of Dover offices are closed today.
DOVER — Given overnight winds gusting to 40 miles per hour, it may be difficult for residents to measure how much snow fell in Kent and Sussex counties overnight.
Residents may find as much as 8 inches of accumulation to very little given the high winds, which will continue today. Despite precipitation tapering off, sub-freezing temperatures are to remain through Saturday. Today’s forecast includes a high of 13 degrees and low of 4 with wind chills as low as -15 degrees during the day and -5 degrees at night as the wind begins to calm.
Thursday had a forecasted high of 21 degrees and a low of 9, according to the National Weather Service.
Meteorologists at the service’s office in Mount Holly, NJ., said Tuesday evening that the largest challenge drivers and state transportation workers will face today are the high winds blowing snow back onto already-cleared roads and interfering with drivers’ visibility.
The state issued level 1 driving restrictions Tuesday afternoon in an effort to limit vehicles on roadways because of the road conditions. While Kent roads were packed with snow, Sussex highways were wet with a mix of frozen precipitation, according to Delaware State Police.
At least 17 crashes had been reported in Kent County by 4 p.m., none with injuries and there were 10 disabled vehicles late in the afternoon, according to Sgt. Paul G. Shavack. Two crashes were reported at 2 p.m., one with minor injuries.
By noon, the DSP had responded to 35 crashes in New Castle County, a few with minor injuries. Sixteen more occurred by 2 p.m., four with minor injuries.
In anticipation of the snow, the Delaware Department of Transportation pretreated roads across the state with brine, a salt and water combination, on Monday and continued working Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a very long night,” DelDOT spokesman Jim Westhoff said.
The Delaware National Guard Tuesday night had positioned personnel and vehicles in three locations in Delaware in an effort to provide support.
“We are working with DEMA and ready to support the state as needed,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, adjutant general, Delaware National Guard. “Support to the state is what makes the National Guard unique from any other service component. It is a part of our heritage for which we are extremely proud.”
The guard’s Task Force South, located at the Smyrna and Georgetown armories, includes a command cell, eight Humvees, three trucks and approximately 30 drivers to help the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center in Georgetown and DEMA in Smyrna.
Even before snow hit the ground Tuesday, many schools, businesses and agencies were putting inclement weather plans into effect.
The minute the clock struck noon on Tuesday, state workers flooded out of the state buildings on Legislative Mall to avoid getting stuck on the slippery roads. Gov. Markell had issued a State of Emergency so only essential workers had to report as needed. The Delaware legislature cancelled the House and Senate sessions. All downstate public schools dismissed early, or didn’t open at all Tuesday.
Elaine Tull, of Greenwood, took a minute to admire the light snowfall outside of the Delaware Economic Development Office on Kings Highway in Dover. She and her co-workers were finishing up some paperwork before making the trek home. Regardless of how pretty the snow is, at the end of the day she said she thinks it’s an inconvenience.
“I’m sick of it. I want it to be summer,” she said.
Across the street, Diane and David Partridge, were all smiles during their walk to Governor’s Café, bundled up in warm hats and coats to grab some lunch.
“We love walking in the snow,” said Mrs. Partridge, a lifelong Dover resident, whose cheeks flushed rosy with the cold weather.
Downtown Dover was bustling in spite of the icy sidewalks and whipping wind. Angelo’s Pizza on Loockerman Street was a sanctuary from the cold.
“People are still coming in to pick up the pizzas,” said Dave Demont, assistant manager. He carefully monitored the weather updates from a television mounted in the corner of the shop.
Jessica Lynch, of Camden-Wyoming, was one of those hungry patrons. The two large pizzas and an order of wings she took home would complement her evening of board games and family time.
“We have sleds and are ready to take out the kids,” the 23-year-old said, adding that she looked forward to eating chicken chili during her snow day.
“I love snow.”
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, measurements recorded by the Delaware Environmental Observing System Snow Monitoring Network ranged from 7.8 inches in Greenville to 1.7 in Dover and .4 in Viola. The six Sussex locations all reported zero, although snow had fallen in parts of the county.
“The farther north you go, there will be more accumulation but this is significant snowfall for all of Delmarva,” WBOC Chief Meteorologist Dan Satterfield said Tuesday late afternoon.
He said snow was expected to be heaviest after nightfall and taper off around 2 a.m.
Little erosion expected
Though high winds were an issue with the fast-moving storm, or clipper, Tony Pratt, Delaware Department of Natural Resource and Environmental Control’s Shoreline and Waterway Management administrator, said Tuesday morning he didn’t expect significant beach erosion or flooding for coastal Delaware.
Major erosion and flooding happen when there are sustained winds higher than 40 mph, Mr. Pratt said.
Additionally, the moon’s tidal powers won’t be at full strength because it’s coming off a new moon, he said.
“I’m not saying there won’t be minor erosion or minor flooding, but there’s not going to be anything to remember this storm,” Mr. Pratt said.
He expected the northeast winds to last less than 24 hours and shift direction.
“It’s blowing pretty hard, but it’s a fast-moving storm,” he said. “When the winds change, they’ll push all the water back out.”
Staff writers Craig Anderson and Chris Flood contributed to this story.