DOVER, Del. (CBS/AP) – Gov. Jack Markell has declared a state of emergency for Delaware as Hurricane Irene approaches.
He has also ordered that visitors to coastal areas of the state must leave. Residents of those areas, as of Thursday evening, are allowed to stay.
TEXT OF GOVERNOR’S REMARKS
Over the last day, forecasts from the National Hurricane Center have moved the projected track of Irene closer and closer to the Delaware coast. The current forecast has the center of the hurricane passing literally a few miles off our coast. What that could mean for us, based on the current forecast is:
§ More than a foot of rain along the coast, with up to 9 to 10 inches inland Sussex and in Kent and New Castle Counties.
§ In the area of Fenwick Island and Bethany Beach, sustained winds of 85 miles per hour and gusts over 100 miles per hour.
§ In the area of Rehoboth and Lewes, sustained winds over 50 with gusts of more than 60.
§ Inland Sussex and Kent and New Castle can expect sustained winds of more than 40 miles per hour in some places.
§ There will be two high tides – Saturday evening and Sunday morning — and those will already be higher than normal because of the moon cycle,
§ A storm surge of 4 to 7 feet is possible along the coast, with 3 to 5 feet in the Delaware Bay.
These conditions, especially in southeast Sussex, are ones that are rarely seen in Delaware and are potentially very dangerous. If this forecast holds true, we are looking at major flooding throughout the state but especially in the coastal areas. We are looking at wind damage throughout the state and especially in southeast Sussex. We are looking at roads becoming impassible, rivers and streams flooding, and power outages. Earlier today, DEMA issued a warning that visitors who had been planning to come to Delaware beaches change their plans and that those in vacation homes consider returning to their homes. And now, as a result of the expected conditions I just described, in the next few hours I will be declaring a state of emergency as of 6 p.m. that includes an order of evacuation from coastal areas throughout the state. For tonight, that evacuation includes the following:
§ Any visitors to the area should evacuate immediately.
§ Others, including residents, who have the flexibility and ability to begin leaving the areas tonight should do so.
§ People should not be entering the area tonight or tomorrow.
Evacuation is best accomplished along pre-designated routes that are posted with evacuation route signs and can be found of DelDOT’s website. DelDOT along with the State Police and the National Guard will help direct the evacuation traffic on Friday.
We urge people who can to start moving as soon as possible in order to minimize traffic issues that we know we may encounter. Once winds reach 40 miles an hour, which is expected Saturday afternoon, DelDOT, State Police and other responders will not be able to be out on the roads safely and there is the possibility that bridges over the C&D canal will need to be closed to travel. We will continue to watch the forecast may well order a mandatory evacuation of residents on Friday, as well as closure of state government.
§ Shelters will be opened not only in Sussex but in Kent and New Castle counties as well on Friday and those locations will be publicized. Those locations should be considered a last resort and will be expected to fill quickly. People are advised to make plans to stay with family or friends or in hotels wherever possible.
The Delaware National Guard is activated all of its employees to help with the evacuation as well as storm response. Equipment and troops will be deployed to all three counties for the storm and its aftermath.
I am ordering this evacuation for a number of reasons:
1. The winds predicted for southeast Sussex have the potential to cause severe damage to homes and businesses and jeopardize lives.
2. The flooding that will result from the combination of rainfall and tidal conditions in coastal Sussex and Kent counties will isolate many homes and businesses, making them impossible to reach including by emergency responders.
While only part of the state is covered by the evacuation, everyone in Delaware needs to pay attention to and prepare for this storm. River and stream flooding may be at record levels. People should stockpile food, food batteries and other supplies in case of extended periods of not being able to travel or being without power. Those in flood prone areas should prepare evacuation kits and be ready should rivers or streams threaten their homes. The Delaware Emergency Management Agency has led dozens of calls over the last three days preparing for this storm, coordinating with federal county, city and town, fire department, health, utility and other agencies. The Emergency Operations Center in Smyrna where I will be tomorrow morning will be fully staffed through the weekend with all of the agencies I mentioned to provide a coordinated response to whatever Hurricane Irene brings.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)