Severe weather triggers tornado watch, driving ban
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 1, 2011 03:09
Despite heavy rainfall, flooding and a tornado watch through the early morning, Newark survived its one night-bout with Hurricane Irene, suffering minor damages as the storm moved through New Castle County.
Between 6 and 7 inches of rain fell on the Newark area, according to state climatologist Dan Leathers, who said that the rainfall and resulting flooding was more significant than the wind from the hurricane.
Leathers said the majority of rainfall occurred during a 12-hour period between Saturday night and early Sunday morning. The rapid accumulation of water caused some rivers, creeks and other bodies of water in the area to swell to levels similar to those during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Isabel in 2003.
"The streams flooded very quickly, and they reached major flood stages on all of those streams," Leathers said. "Most of them did not reach a record flood level. Some of them were set back with Hurricane Floyd and Hurricane Isabel."
The geography of New Castle County, according to Leathers, was another major factor which contributed to area flooding. Water streams in Delaware lower counties, Sussex and Kent, are larger and can hold more water than those in the northernmost part of the state.
"[The flooding] has to do with the topography, there's a lot of hills, the stream valleys tend to get very fast runoff, especially when you have a situation like Irene," Leathers said.
Flooding also forced several road closures, according to Newark Police spokesman Lt. Mark Farrall.
"The road that was closed for the longest period of time was Paper Mill," Farrall said.
Despite the flooding and road closures, however, Farrall reported no serious injuries or deaths in Newark. Gov. Jack Markell announced a statewide driving ban, which went into effect in New Castle County at 10 p.m.
During the height of the storm, however, Farrall said that there were few instances of power outages in the area. By comparison, Delaware's primary electricity provider, Delmarva Power, reported approximately 220,000 customers without power statewide.
Farrall said he believed the city's placement of power lines was effective in managing the potential for loss of electricity.
"The city electric department does a really good job of putting up electric wires, to try and reduce the number of power outages," Farrall said.
The university also survived the storm with minimal damage to its buildings and infrastructure. According to university spokeswoman Meredith Chapman, the university suffered minor damage in the form of leaking ceilings and landscaping.
"There are a fair amount of downed trees, notably one by Memorial Hall, as well as mulch and mud on walkways," Chapman said in a statement.
Storm cleanup occurred through Monday, moving the university's move-in days to Tuesday and Wednesday. The first day of the classes was also rescheduled to Thursday.
Similarly, many residents and business owners returned to Main Street on Sunday morning, after the driving ban was lifted 12 hours after it began. Leathers said while hurricane was significant, it was not nearly as destructive in Newark as it was elsewhere.
"Really, this storm ended up being a rain event, even though it wasn't advertised as such," Leathers said.