Hurricane Irene update for Delaware

The Indian River Bridge is now reopened for Route 1 drivers to the lower Sussex County beach towns.  Irene didn’t do the damage officials feared.  But, now that Delaware has seen the worst of Hurricane Irene, Delaware emergency officials are now beginning to assess what she left behind.

In a media conference call Sunday morning, a grateful Governor Jack Markell thanked Delawareans who heeded his mandatory evacuation orders and driving bans. Thanks to them, he said, Delaware did not have any reports of serious injuries or fatalities, so far.

Due to the storm’s weakened strength, Gov. Markell said initial damage assessments are less than what was predicted. As a result, the Governor has lifted the mandatory evacuation orders and driving bans. However, because more than 43-thousand people remain without power, statewide, or may be cut off from their homes and businesses because of flooding and debris, Gov. Markell says shelters will remain open until they’re no longer needed.

In the meantime, the Governor says state agencies are hard at work trying to get things back online.

“I want life to return to normal as soon as possible and we’re going to work hard to make that happen.”

According to the state, priorities include restoring power, repairing communications systems, emergency services, and clearing roads so schools and public facilities can reopen.

DelDOT has already swung into action, dispatching 400 employees to address high-priority issues on primary and secondary roads.

“The state’s transportation system appears to have weathered the storm reasonably well, however, the state will be contending with flooded roads, utility lines that have come down, loss of power to traffic control devices, fallen trees and debris on roadways, and other various issues,” said DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt. “For this reason, we urge the public to remain off the roads as long as possible today, and to use extra caution if they are driving, knowing they may encounter unexpected delays and road hazards.”

Bridges over the C&D Canal stayed closed through the storm.  At 4:45pm Sunday DelDOT Secretary Bhatt gave the Indian River Inlet Bridge the all clear for the stability of the bridge.  Crews spent part of their day removing sand from Route 1.

And crews with Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) are out assessing beach erosion in Sussex County, but say some communities are hard to reach because of flooding.

For the remainder of Sunday, Gov. Markell, along with Delaware’s Congressional Delegation, will tour Kent and Sussex Counties. The Governor says Delaware Emergency Management and FEMA, meanwhile, are currently working on a preliminary damage assessment report, expected to be completed by the end of the day. Delaware received a federal disaster declaration, which paves the way for the state to receive federal assistance.

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