Life gets back to normal in Sussex after Irene departs

By Lynn R. Parks

On Monday, just a day after hurricane Irene left the area, life in western Sussex County largely got back to normal. Schools were in session, businesses were open and the landscape for the most part was unscathed.

Power had been restored to most homes that had lost it. The Delaware Electric Cooperative was reporting just 24 homes throughout the county that were without electricity. In Seaford, power was back on in about 150 homes where it had been interrupted. The homes were in Westview and Martin Farms and on Phillips and Willey streets.

City manager Dolores Slatcher said that the outages, some of which lasted up to 28 hours, were caused when trees and branches fell onto wires or when wires snapped. Repairs were delayed because crews couldn't work during the height of the storm, from 10:30 Saturday evening until 6 a.m. Sunday.

Flooding in the city was minimal, Slatcher said. "Some catch basins did get covered but due to the efforts of some residents and the city the debris was quickly removed," she said.

"Overall, Seaford did very well," she added. "Trees in our right-of-ways behind homes caused us the biggest problem. We will be discussing how to address this for the future."

A tree that fell on the grounds of the Ross Plantation near Seaford did not take down any wires with it. But the tree did fall just inches away from the plantation's slave quarters, the only known slave quarters in the state.

"We were really lucky there," said Scott Davidson, president of the Seaford Historical Society, which owns the plantation. Davidson said that the mansion itself was not damaged in the storm. The society's other property, the Seaford Museum in downtown Seaford, was also undamaged, he said.

Davidson could not say how much it will cost the society to clear up the fallen tree and the many small branches that are on the plantation grounds. "We are always looking for donations from people who are interested in helping us maintain our properties," he said.

A tree was also uprooted in the ball field in front of Central Elementary School in Seaford. But that was the only damage that the school district suffered, said Roy Whitaker, chief of buildings and grounds.

"We had a couple of wet ceiling tiles here and there, but nothing blew away," he added. "We are very fortunate and very pleased that our buildings held up as well as they did."

In Greenwood on Monday morning, town manager John McDonnell was assessing the situation on Queen and Addix streets just west of U.S. 13. Flooding on those two streets, "in the lowest part of town," had seeped into one home, he said.

"People tell me that flooding along Queen and Addix streets has been a problem for years," added McDonnell, who took over as town manager Jan. 3. "I'm going to take a look at that, to see if we can alleviate the problem for future storms."

The town also saw flooding on Market Street, in its business district. Water came to within 2 feet of Yoder's grocery store before it started to recede, McDonnell said.

All in all, though, "we had no real major damage," he added.

"Our town fared extremely well," said Merritt Burke IV, town manager of Bridgeville. Damage in town was limited to a small portion of a sidewalk on North Cannon Street, he added.

"We tried to prepare for a category 3 hurricane," Burke said. By the time it reached Delaware, Irene was a category 1 storm.

"By getting ready for a larger storm, we felt really good about how prepared we were," Burke said.

In Laurel, Mayor John Shwed said that he was pleased with how the town fared. "Considering the magnitude of the storm, Laurel did very well," he said. "There were a few tree limbs down here and there, but we didn't lose power and we were able to continue all of our services right through the storm."

There was some flooding on Front Street, which runs along Broad Creek, Shwed said. But that was only at high tide and for "just a short duration," he added.

In Delmar, town manager Sara Bynum-King had a very succinct answer when asked about how Irene affected her town. "There were no problems," she said. "No damage at all."

Police locate missing storm victims New Castle County Police, members of the New Castle County Fire Service Surface Water Rescue Team, Office of Emergency Management, Hockessin Fire Department, Delaware State Police Trooper 4, Delmarva Search and Rescue, have located two victims of Hurricane Irene – 25-year-old Christopher Valentine of Hockessin and 25-year-old Jean Baptista of Clark, N.J. The victims were found in the Mill Creek Branch by two separate search groups on the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 29. The pair was reported missing on Sunday, Aug. 28, by Valentine's mother. They were last seen as they left a friend's home in the community of Cameron Hills in Hockessin around midnight during Hurricane Irene. The friends were headed toward Valentine's residence approximately two miles away. Detectives learned through phone records that the last time their phones were used was in the Lancaster Pike area in Hockessin near the Delaware/Pennsylvania line. The bodies were turned over to the Delaware State's Medical Examiner's Office who will determine the manner and cause of death. "While we had hoped and prayed our state would get through this dangerous hurricane without the loss of life, we now know that is not the case. I offer my condolences to the families and friends of Christopher Valentine and Jean Baptista, as I know this will be a time of great difficulty for their families and those close to them," said Governor Jack Markell. Power restoration efforts continue Delmarva Power continues to repair widespread damage to the electrical system caused by Hurricane Irene. Assessment teams have surveyed damage across the service territory to help guide the restoration work and crews have been addressing public safety issues in a massive restoration effort. "We have deployed crews throughout communities on the Delmarva Peninsula and are giving our maximum effort to restore power to our customers," said Joseph M. Rigby, president and chief executive officer, Pepco Holdings, Inc. "We have allocated our personnel, and the additional resources we've secured from our mutual assistance partners, to those areas hardest hit by the storm and to priority customers such as hospitals, schools and police and fire stations." According to Delmarva Power Region President, Gary Stockbridge, power was restored to all its customers in the Bay region by midnight on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Service for all customers in northern Delaware and northeastern Maryland will be restored no later than noon on Thursday, Sept. 1. Crews will be re-deployed to areas in need of assistance outside the region. At the peak of the outage, approximately 220,000 customers were without power.

Delmarva Power supports Red Cross The American Red Cross of the Delmarva Peninsula and Delmarva Power work together to make sure the community is prepared for any disaster – whether it is a hurricane like this past weekend's storm, a blizzard or flooding. Both the Red Cross and Delmarva Power encourage residents to take action steps before an emergency to ensure the Delmarva Peninsula is as safe as possible before, during and after a disaster. After a disaster, the American Red Cross provides immediate, emergency assistance. In support of these efforts, Delmarva Power generously donated $10,000 to the Red Cross Disaster Relief. "Partnership with the community, emergency personnel and the Red Cross is extremely important to Delmarva Power. We all have a responsibility to serve and this [gift] is just a part of that sense of community. Delmarva Power encourages and challenges others to support Red Cross Disaster Relief so the Delmarva Peninsula is ready for the next disaster," said Glenn Moore, vice president, Delmarva Power Region.

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