In preparation for a severe winter storm to impact the state, Gov. John Carney issued a State of Emergency in Kent and Sussex counties, and authorized the Delaware National Guard to assist state and local officials with any necessary response and recovery.
Gov. Carney also issued a Level 2 Driving Restriction for Kent and Sussex counties, and a Level 1 Driving Warning for New Castle County, beginning at 10 p.m. on Friday.
“We are anticipating a serious storm, and Delawareans in Kent and Sussex counties should stay off the roadways when the driving restriction goes into effect tonight,” Gov. Carney said in a prepared statement. “That will help personnel from the Delaware Department of Transportation more effectively clear the roadways, and help us provide services to our neighbors most in need.”
The Level 2 Driving Restriction (Kent and Sussex counties) means that no person may operate a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways, except for persons designated as “essential personnel.”
Travel on roadways is restricted to certain state employees, emergency workers, first responders, health care workers, utility workers, snow removal operators, private sector food and fuel deliveries, and individuals already approved through DEMA's State of Emergency Driving Waiver program.
The Level 1 Driving Warning (New Castle County) means Delawareans should avoid traveling on roadways, unless there is a significant safety, health, or business reason to do so. All motorists are urged to drive with extreme caution.
Learn about Delaware’s three levels of driving warnings and restrictions online.
Areas of coastal Sussex County are predicted to see the most serious impact from the storm, including winds of up to 50 mph, which may lead to power outages. Travel will be difficult as high winds and heavy snow will result in snow covered roads and limited visibility. If travel is necessary, extra caution and preparations should be taken, such as having a vehicle emergency supply kit.
State and local officials are directed to remove abandoned vehicles from roads in affected areas at the expense of the vehicle owner after 10 p.m. on Friday, while the driving restriction in Kent and Sussex counties is in effect.
Under Delaware Code, failure to obey an Emergency Order may result in a fine of $50 to $500 and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.
The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated. The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) is coordinating the state’s response, including resources from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), Delaware State Police, Delaware Division of Public Health, and Delaware National Guard.
The DelDOT snowplow tracker will be active during the storm and is available via the DelDOT smartphone app and online, under the interactive maps icon. Additionally, DelDOT also has more than 200 traffic cameras that are available to view road conditions around the state. Winter weather preparedness tips for home and travel can be found online here.
A Code Purple has been declared across the state and shelters are opening to take in Delawareans who are experiencing homelessness. To be connected to Code Purple resources, call Delaware 2-1-1. If you see someone outside who appears to be homeless, encourage them to seek emergency shelter or call a non-emergency police number to alert the police to the situation.
Earlier Friday, Delaware was placed under a winter storm warning for inland areas, and a blizzard warning was issued for coastal and inland Sussex County, according to the National Weather Service.
Most of Kent and Sussex counties are forecast to receive 8-12 inches of snow accumulation, with NWS calling for 4-6 inches for New Castle County. Snowfall is expected to begin around 6 Friday evening and last until Saturday afternoon.
A sharp gradient to lower snowfall amounts is anticipated near or just northwest of the Interstate 95 corridor.
NWS said blizzard conditions are expected near the coast, with strong wind gusts, reduced visibility and snowfall of 8-15 inches. A coastal flood warning has been issued for Sussex County and a coastal flood watch was called for Kent County, which may affect roads.
There will also be a northerly wind blowing 30-40 mph, with gusts around 50.
The strongest winds are expected to be late Friday and into Saturday, which may cause scattered tree damage and power outages, especially near the coast, as well as blowing snow and reduced visibility.
“This is undoubtedly the most significant winter nor’easter we have faced in a number of years, and it has the potential to rank up there with the back-to-back blizzards of 2010,” Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph L. Thomas said. “The public should be mindful of the forecast, prepare accordingly, and avoid travel tonight. The last place you will want to be is stranded somewhere on a darkened road in a raging blizzard.”
Emergency planners urge the public to prepare now for the strong possibility of impossible travel, widespread power outages, downed trees, as well as some minor coastal flooding as a result of the storm. The system is forecast to spread blizzard condition from here to New England.
Those traveling for essential or emergency purposes, however, should be prepared with basic supplies on hand, including an ice scraper, blankets, sand or cat litter, de-icer, flashlight and batteries, mobile telephone, high-calorie non-perishable food and water, and a full tank of gas.
Meantime, residents and property owners should prepare themselves with basic household supplies, including extra food and water, first-aid supplies, flashlights and batteries, a battery-powered weather radio, extra prescription medicines, baby items, an emergency heat source and sufficient heating fuel.
The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center continues to monitor this situation and is working closely with other local and state governmental agencies. Additional staff are being called in to the County’s EOC and paramedic stations to be on standby and respond to issues that may arise during and after this event.
How to prepare
DEMA, DelDOT and the Delaware State Police will continue to provide updates throughout the storm.
Residents are encouraged to monitor local weather through the U.S. National Weather Service Philadelphia/Mount Holly.