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Sussex County preps for 2019 hurricane season

Delaware Public Media

The summer beach season is not the only thing getting underway in Sussex County this time of year.

The Atlantic hurricane season is here and Sussex County Emergency Management wants residents and visitors alike to take it seriously.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a near-normal 2019 season, with 9-15 named systems possible.  It says 4-8 storms could become hurricanes, with up to four possibly hitting Category 3 strength or higher.

Joe Thomas is the director of the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center.  He says there are a number of issues even one storm can create by hitting Sussex County, especially along the coast.

“Since we’re a low-lying area, we always have to look at flooding.  Beach erosion is typically  always ad significant concern.  And the tourist season is upon us, so the population is increased too," said Thomas. "So there’s a lot of different factors that go into this.”

Thomas adds a major storm or hurricane doesn’t have to make direct hit here to cause problems.

“What typically happens is as these storms make landfall, as they move up from the south to the north, we will tend to get some of the rain from one of these.  And if we get a significant amount of rain, we’ll have flooding issues" Thomas said.  "So just becaue there isn’t that names storm coming our way, we can still see some adverse weather conditions.”

Thomas notes Sussex saw "little to no issues" last year during a quiet year along the Mid-Atlantic coast.  And while he hopes for more of the same this year, Thomas says Sussex County Emergency Management is prepared.

He says residents and visitors should also prepare.

Thomas says the best way is to have a disaster kit, which should include a 3-day supply of water and food, any important medications and documents, and a flashlight and radio with extra batteries.

He also encourages people to pay attention to the forecast and media when a storm forms in the Atlantic to be aware of its potential to affect the area - and, if necessary, what precautions are being taken locally.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for nearly three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.