WILMINGTON, Del., (CBS) -- With a severe winter storm expected to generate significant snowfall in New Castle and Kent Counties, as well as coastal flooding and strong sustained winds in Sussex County, Governor Jack Markell has issued a State of Emergency effective Friday at 5 p.m., and a "Level 1 Driving Warning" effective Saturday at 12 a.m.
At the Governor's request, Delaware National Guard and DelDOT began pre-positioning their resources yesterday in anticipation of this weekend's storm. The State of Emergency declaration allows the Governor to deploy the Delaware National Guard, DelDOT, first responders, and other agencies to open or close roadways and take other actions to protect public safety and property during the storm event.
According to state law, a "Level 1 Driving Warning" means that any person operating a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways must exercise extra caution. All nonessential employees, public and private, are encouraged not to operate a motor vehicle unless there is a significant safety, health or business reason to do so.
If the predicted forecast comes to fruition, officials say the "Level 1 Driving Warning" is likely to be upgraded to a "Level 2 Driving Restriction" as roadway condition deteriorate Saturday. Officials say the Governor continues to monitor the forecast regularly and will remain in frequent contact with emergency management and transportation officials over the course of the storm.
According to state law, under a "Level 2 Driving Restriction," no person may operate a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways, except for persons designated as "essential personnel" or who have received a waiver from the Delaware Emergency Management Agency. The following persons are specifically designated as "essential personnel" under Delaware law:
- Operators of snow removal equipment (public and private);
- Persons providing public utility services;
- Persons providing healthcare services; and
- Persons providing food and fuel deliveries.
The National Weather Service has declared a Blizzard Warning for New Castle County and Kent and Sussex Counties are under a Winter Storm Watch. Residents are encouraged to avoid travelling area roads Friday night and Saturday, and Delaware residents in flood-prone areas in Kent and Sussex should seriously consider relocating during this time.
"With authorities predicting snowfall amounts of 12-18 inches, it is important that all Delawareans take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones", said Governor Markell in a news release. "Conditions are predicted to rapidly deteriorate during the overnight hours and through tomorrow, which will create hazardous driving conditions and the threat of flooding in low-lying coastal areas. That's why I'm urging Delawareans to find a safe place to be this weekend and to arrive there this evening, and why I'm asked all non-essential personnel to avoid travelling our roadways after the snow begins so that DelDOT and emergency crews can clear the roads and keep our citizens safe."
Because of the amount of snow expected and duration of the snowfall, officials say many roads will be snow-covered and could be impassable throughout the day tomorrow. DelDOT has been working hard to prepare the roads for snow and to prepare its crews for a weekend of plowing.
Officials say DelDOT crews started applying brine solution to Delaware roadways on Wednesday, and have since completed those operations. All equipment used in snow removal operations have been checked and rechecked from the snow plows to the windshield wipers. Plow trucks are being loaded with salt, and all normal snow removal preparations are underway.
DelDOT has Equipment Operators for 330 snow plows currently at work and on standby ready to act as the snowfall requires this evening and Saturday.
Yesterday, officials say the Governor authorized the National Guard, in coordination with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, to pre-position its forces to assist local first responders with stranded motorists, flooding, and other emergencies that may require their attention. They will remain in position to assist Delawareans throughout the weekend.
Code Purple locations will open today in all three counties for individuals who are homeless and in need of shelter during the storm. More information, including a list of sites statewide, is available here. To be connected to Code Purple resources, call Delaware 2-1-1, search for "Code Purple" on the Delaware 2-1-1 mobile app or on its website at www.delaware211.org and click on the Code Purple button.
Winter Storm precautions released by the Department of Agriculture can be found here.
In addition, DART statewide regular bus and paratransit services, as well as SEPTA Wilmington/Newark line are suspended for Saturday. Check www.dartfirststate.com for updates regarding Sunday service.
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