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Rescues and evacuations in northern Delaware as Ida remnants cause record flooding

Parts of northern Delaware saw significant flooding Thursday as a result of the remnants of Hurricane Ida that doused the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. 


The Brandywine Creek at Wilmington hit 23.14 feet Thursday morning, smashing its previous record of 20.43 feet in 2014. 

"The Brandywine was an extreme event,” said Nick Carr, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “Most of it was because of the rain that fell upstream in southeast PA and just basically drained into the Brandywine.”

Credit Shavonne White
Flooding on Wilmington's East Side Thursday morning


The greatest damage was seen in the City of Wilmington, where officials said flooding stretched between I-495 and Market Street, with the most significant impact in a 15 to 20-block area along the creek. 


Emergency services evacuated about 200 Wilmington residents, said Wilmington Fire Chief John Looney. Many have been sent to shelters set up at the Police Athletic League (P.A.L.) on North Market Street or the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center on North Madison Street until they can find a safe place to stay.  


“Right now, we’d rather have them ... stay in those shelters, rather than coming back,” Looney said. 


Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) Director A.J. Schall said it could be months before some Wilmington residents return to their homes. Gov. John Carney said the state Department of Health and Social Services may be able to provide food and vouchers for hotel stays, and that the Red Cross is on site at the temporary shelters. 


“We got a lot of hard work ahead of us,”  Carney said. “You’ve got water damage in these homes, you’ve got folks that are going to be out for hopefully not too long a period of time. We’ve got social services providing assistance for them as they shelter.”


Others were evacuated early Thursday morning along the Brandywine Creek in Rockland. 


City of Wilmington officials called the flooding in the city “historic,” and Fire Chief Looney said it was the largest evacuation he’s seen in his 28-year career. 


DelDOT said 18 bridges in northern New Castle County remained closed as of Thursday afternoon. Roads and bridges closed in Wilmington include: 


  • South Park Drive, between Market Street and Van Buren Street
  • North Park Drive, between Van Buren Street and the Swinging Bridge
  • 300 block of East 15th Street
  • Clifford Brown Walk, between East 14th Street and East 16th Street
  • East 7th Street/7th Street Peninsula
  • Vandever Avenue in the area of Claymont Street and Bowers Street
  • South Market Street Bridge (Sen. John E. Reilly, Sr. Bridge)

“Obviously this terrible storm has caused serious flooding devastation throughout the City,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki in a statement Thursday afternoon. “We are doing our very best to ensure that everybody is safe, first and foremost, and that we address the aftermath of this historic storm so that get things back to normal again.”


The Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington was on “temporary lockdown status” Thursday, after flood waters reached roads and parking areas around it. The Department of Correction said in a Facebook post Thursday morning that the flooding impacted access to and from the facility—but that the prison building itself is at higher elevation and “remains above the standing water.”  


Stubbs Early Education Center in the Christina School District saw flooding in the basement and flood damage outside, according to DEMA. 


Residents of condominiums along the Brandywine at Rockland were evacuated Thursday morning and taken to the Talleyville Fire Company.


Rockland resident Jim Shreve estimates his unit saw about 6 feet of flooding. He says it’s the worst flood he has experienced in his 13 years living there. 


“All the furniture, walls are going to be damaged, pictures, everything,” he said, surveying flood waters with neighbors Thursday morning. “We usually flood when it gets about 15 feet or above. The flood level went up over 21 feet last night.”


Other Rockland residents said they saw neighbors’ cars float away. They said they expect the flooding to intensify with climate change, and believe their community will need a plan to mitigate the effects of future flooding in order to remain in place long-term. 

Climate change causesmore intense stormsthat produce more rainfall. 

The City of Wilmington issued the following safety guidance:

  • Do NOT attempt to drive through any high water.
  • If you are in a flooded area, remain in place and call 9-1-1 for assistance.
  • If wires come down, call 9-1-1 to report it. Do NOT go near downed wires!
  • If a tree is down in a public street or right of way, contact 3-1-1.
  • Listen to guidance from first responders.

This story has been updated.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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