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Sandy picks up speed, may make landfall in Delaware or southern NJ

3:36 PM, Oct 29, 2012   |    comments
ater reaches Rehoboth Beach boardwalk: Water has started to come over the sea wall at Rehoboth Beach and workers are trying to keep the storm drains cleared of leaves.
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Wind and rain continue to pound Delaware this afternoon and forecasters say Hurricane Sandy will make landfall in extreme southern New Jersey or central Delaware in the next 3-5 hours.

The storm centered about 84 miles east of Bethany Beach at 3 p.m. picked up speed in the past few hours and is moving northwest at 28 mph.

Rainfall at Rehoboth Beach totaled 6.53 inches by early afternoon, with nearly 7 inches at Indian River Inlet and more than 4 inches in Dover and Bear.

At 3:50 p.m., Delmarva Power reported on its website that more than 13,900 customers in Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore had lost electric service as high winds brought down trees and power lines. About 3,500 of those are in New Castle County, 2,900 in Sussex and more than a hundred in Kent County in Delaware. And the Delaware Electric Cooperative reported more than 1,800 customers out in Kent and Sussex, with the longest outage nearly 6 hours.

As winds picked up this afternoon, the Delaware Memorial Bridge speed limit was reduced to 25 mph and the two outer lanes in each direction were closed. Officials plan to close the span entirely if sustained winds exceed 50 mph.

Earlier this afternoon, President Barrack Obama declared Delaware a federal disaster area, providing money and agencies for disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The president said Hurricane Sandy will affect millions of people and urged everyone in its path to heed the warnings.

Heavy rain and pounding surf from the advance of a stronger Hurricane Sandy have closed numerous coastal roads and with more damage expected Gov. Jack Markell announced he was seeking the federal disaster declaration.

Del. 1 is now closed by flooding from Dewey Beach to Fenwick Island. Water a foot or two deep is reported in Dewey.

A wind gust of 64 mph was measured at Lewes just before 2:30 p.m.

Maryland officials cut speed limits on all interstate and U.S. routes to 45 mph.

Maryland officials closed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge due to high winds. The bridges across the Susquehanna River on U.S. 40 and I-95 have prohibited larger vehicles were crossing.

Sandy's sustained winds have reached 90 mph, according the an 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, and they were holding at that level through the afternoon.

In Dewey Beach, nearly all roads off Del. 1 towards Rehoboth Bay in the southern part of town are flooded nearly to Del. 1. Waves are lapping on Dickinson Street at Del. 1 with The Rusty Rudder and The Lighthouse surrounded by floodwater. The hotel construction site at Ruddertowne is all under water. Bayard Avenue, which regularly floods during storms, is once again under water.

Near Slaughter Beach, water spilled over the marshes and covered several hundred yards of Del. 36, making it impassable for normal vehicles.

East of Odessa, a foot of water was reported on one section of Del. 9 near Old Corbitt Road.

In Smyrna, Town Manager Dave Hugg said, "Everything is charged up, fueled up, fired up. Tonight should be it when the winds really get bad. We're ready, we are just sitting and waiting now."

As they wait, Hugg said crews with the town are going out every hour to make sure storm drains are cleared to minimize flooding.

Sussex County spokesman Chip Guy said around 1 p.m. he was aware of no current flooding problems in the Seaford area, where state officials had reported flooding early today.

Gov. Markell said this morning that Delaware's coast is expected to see record-breaking high tides.

Sustained winds of 50 miles per hour will be felt throughout the state with gusts reaching 75 to 80 mph earlier this afternoon than initially anticipated.

The winds could exasperate flooding along the coast because it is blowing north to northwest, Markell said. As of this morning, waves were "crashing on Route 1" south of Dewey Beach, he said.

Markell said it is important for people to follow the driving ban now because conditions will start to worsen this afternoon.

"We didn't want people driving to work and then driving back in dangerous conditions or getting stuck," Markell said. "The problem is, if you didn't comply [with the ban], you could be cut off. First responders will try to get to you, but there are no guarantees."

Wade Malcolm, Esteban Parra, Molly Murray and Jeff Montgomery The News Journal

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