Sussex County, Mid-Atlantic coast brace for major coastal winter storm

SUSSEX COUNTY – A major winter storm with sights set on the East Coast is expected to spare Sussex County snowfall measured in feet, but Southern Delaware may yet see plenty of rough weather in the days ahead, including severe coastal flooding, tropical storm-force winds, and, of course, a mixed bag of heavy precipitation.

The National Weather Service in Mt. Holly, N.J., has issued a winter storm watch for Sussex County from 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, through 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, for 2 to 4 inches of snow.

But it’s other tricks in the developing storm’s bag that could be of greater concern, particularly in coastal areas, with 50 mph northeasterly winds and a full moon teaming up to cause moderate-to-severe tidal flooding in low-lying areas, including those along the Atlantic beaches and surrounding the Inland Bays, over several tide cycles through the weekend.

A coastal flood watch is in effect from Saturday morning through midday Sunday.

The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center continues to monitor the situation and cautions residents, particularly those in vulnerable areas, to take preparations now in advance of the expected winter weather.

“These are the types of storms that cause some of our greatest problems. You have heavy snow and rain, very strong winds, and significant flooding – it’s a mix of just about everything, and it’s not going to rush out of here quickly,” Sussex County EOC Director Joseph L. Thomas said. “The public should be prepared for impassable roads, downed trees and power lines, and power outages along the coast as well as inland. This could last into the first part of next week.”

The developing storm is forecast to dump as much as 1 to 3 feet of snow from western Virginia through northern Delaware and into other areas of the Northeast. Forecasters expect the first flakes to begin falling in Sussex County by late Friday afternoon and then continue into the overnight hours.

Snow totals in Sussex County, however, are forecast to be much lower than points north and west as warmer air is expected to move in from the Atlantic Ocean, switching the snow to a wintry mix and then rain by Saturday morning. The storm is expected to continue throughout Saturday and Saturday night, with rain possibly switching back to snow before tapering off Sunday morning.

Still, forecasters caution that a slight shift in the storm’s expected track could mean the difference between 2 to 3 inches of rain and more than a foot of snow, so residents should monitor the forecast and conditions as they develop.

Regardless of the form in which precipitation falls, flooding and strong winds are the greatest concern at the moment, Mr. Thomas said. Areas that historically flood could see moderate to severe flooding throughout the weekend with tides running as much as 3 to 4 feet above normal.

Residents and property owners should take time now to secure loose objects, such as lawn items and trash cans, to prevent winds from turning those items into projectiles. Also, residents in low-lying areas should make sure submersible pumps are working and check storm drains to ensure they are clear of debris.

For updates, stay tuned to local media, as well as the Sussex County website at www.sussexcountyde.gov.

The public also should monitor the National Weather Service, at www.weather.gov/phi and the National Hurricane Center at www.nhc.noaa.gov for the latest forecasts.

Meantime, Sussex County offers a variety of social media outlets, which are a great resource for up-to-date storm information. Please follow along at: www.facebook.com/SussexCountyDE, www.facebook.com/SussexCountyEOC, and www.facebook.com/SussexCountyEMS on Facebook; and www.twitter.com/sussexde_govt, www.twitter.com/SussexCtyDE_EOC, and www.twitter.com/SussexCoDE_EMS on Twitter.

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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