NEW at 4:45pm: Delaware will put a driving ban in effect for Sussex County at 6pm, Kent County at 8pm, and New Castle County at 10pm Saturday night. This means all motorists are asked to stay off the road except those who “maintain the health and safety of the people in Delaware by providing services provided by public utilities.”
In addition DelDOT says it will close three major bridges over the C&D canal. The Roth Bridge (Rt.1), the St. George’s Bridge (Rt. 13), and the Reedy Point Bridge (Rt. 9) in Delaware City will be closed at 10pm. Only emergency vehicles will be allowed to drive over them. That leaves only the Summit Bridge connecting Glasgow and Middletown (Rt. 896). “DelDOT will keep that bridge open as long as possible, but when sustained winds reach 45 miles per hour that bridge will be closed as well, spokesperson Gary Laing said in a statement. The statement went on to say the bridges are expected to be open on Sunday morning.
The Governor had been leaning away from an all out driving ban earlier in the day. His order suggests he had to adjust to the changing conditions:
WHEREAS, as a result of the continued dangers posed by Hurricane Irene, the Delaware
State Police has requested that reasonable driving restrictions be instituted statewide.
Earlier at a 2:15 briefing:Delaware Governor Jack Markell has ordered the Indian River inlet bridge closed beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday. It will remain closed for several until divers can determine whether there was any structural damage from Hurricane Irene.
Markell and members of his cabinet gathered this afternoon at the Delaware Emergency Management Headquarters in Smyrna for a storm update. Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt said that high wave action around the bridge could threaten the foundation. Divers would begin checking the structure when the storm lets up, but adds that could take several days. Route 1 beach traffic crosses over the bridge to get into Bethany and Fenwick beaches.
The Governor did not rule out closing the other Route 1 bridge that passes over a body of water. He says high winds could close the Roth Bridge over the C&D canal. He did not want to impose an all out driving ban for the state. He says the toll at the Delaware Toll plaza on I-95 will be waived as of 3 p.m. Saturday for the remainder of the storm.
Markell says storm predictions given to his team call for 8-12 inches of rain. Much of that will happen at night. He said it would be a good idea of residents to wake up once or twice at night.
“They might be surprised by what they will find,” he added.
The Governor has visited two of the state’s shelters. One is in New Castle, the other in Smyrna, where a woman was celebrating her 58thbirthday.
“It’s not like home,” Markell said as he suggested it would be better if people would stay with family, friends, or go to a hotel if needed. He did add that all shelters are safe. “Find a safe place, hunker down, and plan to stay there for awhile,” was his advice to residents.
He did say Delaware shore areas caught one break: low tide is at 2 a.m. Sunday. That’s when the strongest part of the storm will be off the Delaware coast. That could reduce the storm surge. However, he warns, that doesn’t mean there won’t be major flooding. He said DEMA, DelDOT, DNREC, and other state agencies will hit the ground as soon as the storm lets up to assess the damage.
Sussex Officials have set up four shelters now. Three are pet friendly and one is not.
Beacon Middle School
19482 John J. Williams Hwy.
Indian River H. S.
29772 Armory Road
Milford High School
1019 N. Walnut St.
Sussex Tech H. S.
17099 County Seat Hwy.