A major road connecting Delaware beaches was closed Tuesday morning after ocean water broke through a dune and flooded the highway.
The thin stretch of land between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach gets covered by water occasionally when strong storms and nor’easters pass the Delaware coast. Water typically covers the road from the bay side during high tides in such storms.
That’s what state workers were expecting to find when they went to check conditions Tuesday morning. “When we got down here we discovered that one of the dunes on the ocean side had breached,” said DelDOT’s Alastair Probert. “It was a small breach and water was coming in on Conquest Rd. across Rt. 1 northbound and southbound.”
That forced DelDOT to close both directions of the road from after 7:30 a.m. until just before noon.
The damage to the dunes caused problems for drivers trying to travel Rt. 1, forcing them to use a lengthy inland detour. “The detour can be a really long and painful detour, so we did our best to keep motorists going through it so they could get to work.”
The highway reopened just before noon as the water receded with the tide and as workers with the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control closed the breach. “For right now it appears that they’re doing a temporary repair,” Probert said. “Any time they have to repair the dunes, it’s a significant amount of work. What they’re doing right now is trying to make it so if there’s another event this evening, we don’t have flooding coming through from the ocean side.”
It could have been much worse, though. Hurricane Jose was more than 200 miles offshore from the state’s beaches. If the storm had tracked closer to the state, the dune damage likely would have been much worse.
Now all eyes are on Hurricane Maria, which is threatening Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds. It’s unclear what if any impact Maria will have on the East Coast. The current track of the storm brings it parallel to the U.S. well off the coast of Florida by Sunday. Whether it turns away from or towards the Mid-Atlantic remains to be seen.