New ‘dunes’ around Indian River inlet bridge a sign of Sandy’s strength; keeps part of lower Delaware cut off

The symbol in Delaware that showed off the power of Hurricane Sandy maybe all of the sand deposited by the storm on the Coastal highway just north of Bethany Beach.  That section of road will be closed for a few more days.

It caught the attention of  Gov. Jack Markell, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and transportation officials who surveyed post storm damage around Sussex County by helicopter. The new Indian River Inlet Bridge came through its second test from a tropical storm, despite heavy rain, massive tidal waves and strong winds.  The same can’t be said for the road leading up to the bridge. The early hours of storm, as the surf churned up tons of sand on to Route 1, closed that link between Bethany and Dewey Beaches.   Markell and Matt Denn got an aeriel view of the damage and flooding from above on a Black Hawk helicopter and later saw the damage up close on the ground as well.  The helicopter tour started in Smryna, and after viewing the coastline, Markell landed at the Delaware Army National Guard training site in Bethany Beach. While Hurricane Sandy which was eventually downgraded to a tropical storm, ripped through neighboring states, Delaware was spared considering coastal damage in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt, Tom Carper and DNREC officials met up with Markell and Denn on ground to get a better view of storm damage near the Indian River Inlet Bridge and assessed damages.  “The new Indian River Inlet Bridge is in perfect condition, we checked it visually, and everything is fine. We’re going to do more tests on it but we believe everything is fine,” said Sec. Shailen Bhatt. Bhatt also weighed in on the old bridge, since its demolition is part of the multi-million dollar bridge project. “What we have immediately on the ocean side is the old bridge that really shows the effects of the pounding surf, tidal action that started early and went on and on,” added Bhatt. In the meantime, transportaion are trying to evaluate the impacts of this storm overall and working to get the road  up and running again withing the next 48 hours.  One of the more bizarre reports about the bridge were twitter messages that said it had collapsed.  It’s unclear whether the images posted were photo shopped or just an odd camera angle that gave the impression something had happened.  Either way, state officials were quick to put out their own social media update explaining the bad information and what the real story was.

Senator Tom Carper also survey the bridge from the ground.  He had toured Fenwick and Bethany beaches earlier and noted that the federal and state beach replinishment programs were key in keeping beach damage to a minimum.  From the air Governor Markell and his team could see many parts of the Fenwick business district and homes at Tubbs Cove under water.

Maria Counts, a reporter with our content partner, Coastal Point said that beyond the beach there were many areas along Route 26 that were also flooded.   During the height of the storm some people had to be rescued by rising waters around their home.

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WHYY/First photographer Paul Parmelee was among the photographers who rode on the chopper survey of the coastal areas of Delaware.


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