Citizens ready for effects of Isabel
By Ron MacArthur
Western Sussex residents and officials are praying that Isabel won’t pay the Delmarva Peninsula a visit this week, but it appears that even if the area isn’t hit directly, there is still a strong possibility of damage from wind and water.
As of press time on Tuesday, weather forecasters were saying that Isabel could make landfall somewhere on the East Coast between North Carolina and New Jersey as early as Thursday morning. The massive storm was still packing winds of around 100 miles per hour and was 300 to 400 miles wide.
It didn’t take long for area residents to react to the pending storm. Jim Warren, pharmacist at the Rite Aid in Seaford, said that Monday was an extra busy
day. “People listened to warnings about getting their medicine, and believe me they are, and I’m sure tomorrow will be busier,” he said.
As soon as the doors at the Ace Hardware store in Seaford opened, people began to pour in. According to assistant manager Dan Feaster, lines at the registers were long all day.
He said that the hot items included plastic sheeting, duct tape, flashlights, batteries, propane, generators, chain saw oil, lanterns and fuel, lamp oil and propane cylinders. The store was sold out of generators and propane cylinders by mid-day on Monday.
Store employees found several boxes of flashlights in the warehouse and had a good supply ready for customers late in the day on Monday. “But you can bet they will be gone by tomorrow,” Feaster said. “And if we had bottled water in the store, we could have sold that too.”
Monday and Tuesday were busy days in the city as staff battened down the hatches in preparation for Isabel. According to Dolores Slatcher, city manager, preparation began first thing Monday morning.
Personnel from other city departments were put on public works crews to remove all existing limbs and leaves and to clear all storm water catch basins on city streets. Key catch basins were marked in case water levels rise to a point where the basins can’t be seen.
Slatcher also said all departments checked out their emergency equipment (generators, flashlights, etc.). “We are making sure all back-up systems are up and working,” Slatcher said.
Parks and recreation personnel picked up all trash cans at local parks and secured all loose equipment.
Sandbags are being ordered to shore up some areas near the Nanticoke River in the vicinity of the city’s power plant and wastewater treatment plant. “We’ve had some problems with water in those areas before,” Slatcher said.
The city’s leave and limb landfill was closed as of Monday. Slatcher said that a new location would have to be selected to place debris if the hurricane hits the area.
“If we are hit with a lot of debris, we will not be able to remove it as quickly as some people want it removed,” she said.
The amount of possible debris and documentation required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will slow the cleanup process down.
She added that the city has a hurricane preparedness sheet available for city residents at city hall (hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Capt. Gary Flood at the Seaford Police Department will be named the city’s official public information officer.
“Closer to the storm, our public works department will make sure all of the water towers are topped off,” she said. “We are also telling city employees to be prepared to stay if the storm hits the area.”
The city and the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department will use the municipal fire hall as a center of operations.
Slatcher said she has had many questions relating to an evacuation. “This is normally a place where people are evacuated to, so at this time there are no plans for any evacuation,” she said.
She added that the Red Cross will coordinate with state and county officials to set up emergency shelters in the area. “There will be many more meetings with key officials before this is over,” she said.
Members of the public can reach the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center at 856-7366. Hurricane preparedness tips for poultry growers are on the Internet at www.dpichickens.org
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