Kent County busy preparing for possible onslaught of Hurricane Sandy
City of Dover, Camden-Wyoming and Kent County officials are busy preparing for the ramifications of Hurricane Sandy, which could make landfall in the Mid Atlantic with 75 mile per hour winds early next week.
The city of Dover, the town of Camden, Kent County Levy Court and every other municipality in the state have been participating in daily calls with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service as part of their preparations for Hurricane Sandy.
The National Weather Service's Hurricane Center had initially projected that Hurricane Sandy would swing far right of the East Coast into the Atlantic Ocean. But the center was now projecting that Sandy could potentially make landfall in the Mid Atlantic region with sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.
Local officials in Dover, Kent County and the rest of the state had been busy meeting to make preparations in light of the more serious projections. Those preparations included adjusting shifts of critical employees into the weekend.
"This storm is coming," Dover Public Affairs and Emergency Management Coordinator Kay Dietz-Sass predicted.
Preparations also included Dover hiring out-of-state contractors possibly from as far away as Kentucky or Illinois for utility work and debris removal given that all in state contractors had already been hired, Dietz-Sass said.
"When you lose power that is when people get more anxious," Dietz-Sass said. "That's our priority -- keeping power on for people. But we do encourage people to make sure they can take care of themselves for a few days.
"Of course, you can't be out in 70 mile per hour winds trying to repair a line in a bucket truck," she added. "Sometimes, we have to wait for the storm to pass through before our people go out. Safety has to be our priority."
The city was also conducting a sweep of all drains and catch basins in order to help prevent flooding, and it had increased its leaf collections efforts in the last two days are part of its effort to prevent clogging of storm drains, Dietz-Sass said.
But she said city staff would benefit from the experience they obtained while dealing with the significant aftermath of Hurricane Irene in August 2011.
The Camden Police Department had represented Camden in the daily DEMA and National Weather Service calls , Camden Town Manager Aaron Chaffinch said.
"From what I understand, they were looking at a landfall of 2 o'clock in the morning Tuesday," Chaffinch said. "We'll probably do a survey Monday morning just to check the catch basins. In the meantime, the [Camden] Police Department will keep participating in the bridge calls and keep me posted throughout the weekend.
"There are three or four paths the storm could take and one of them is more severe for Kent County, Delaware than the others," he added. "As we learn more, we'll react accordingly."
As a precaution, Dover High School had been designated as a primary shelter in Kent County by DEMA and county emergency planners, Capital School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas said.
"They will determine if indeed the high school will be open at any point in time as a shelter," Thomas said.
As far as whether schools would be closed in Capital, that would be determined by the conditions created by the impending storm, he said.
"I hope we would be in a position no later than early Sunday afternoon or evening to make a call on whether or not we will be going to school on Monday," he said. "Obviously, these calls are made on a day by day basis depending on the weather conditions as well as the emergency procedures enacted throughout the state."
In unincorporated Kent County, the Delaware Department of Transportation was handling storm drains and catch basins, Kent County Levy Court Public Information Officer Kia Evans said. The county was also collaborating with the American Red Cross to set up shelter locations.
Dover city officials would assess their game plan on Sunday and adjust accordingly, Dietz-Sass said.
"We're very proactive. However, with a storm of this magnitude and the scope, it's going to be a matter of being reactive," she said. "We'll have to assess what damage is done and we'll have to address each item accordingly."