Police warn of dangerous road conditions after 150 crashes

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DELAWARE (3/5/2015) With more than 150 accidents on Delaware roads today, state police are urging motorists to use “extreme caution” if they venture out as temperatures plunge tonight.

The crashes came as a storm dumped more than 7 inches of snow on parts of the state and set a record at New Castle Airport.

Conditions remain dangerous tonight, with roads snow covered and slippery, police said. Visibility is limited and winds may be strong.

Drivers are urged to slow down and to avoid travel if possible.

Statewide, state police dealt with 139 property damage accidents, 17 with injuries and 74 disabled vehicles today.

School districts closing Friday

More school districts have announced they will be closed on Friday due to today’s snowstorm.

Appoquinimink, Brandywine, Capital, Caesar Rodney, Christina, Colonial, Delmar, Lake Forest, Laurel, Milford, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Polytech, Red Clay, Seaford, Sussex Tech, Smyrna and Woodbridge districts made the decisions to close. Many charter and private schools also will be closed.

Latest updates on Friday school closures

With snowfall to wind down this evening, the state’s Code Purple volunteer shelters will be opening to protect the homeless from plunging temperatures.

Numerous crashes were reported on slippery roads across the state, and Gov. Jack Markell urged those who don’t need to drive to stay off the roads so DelDOT crews can do their work.

DART buses were ending their runs early due to the weather. SEPTA’s Wilmington/Newark line suspended service at 4:45 p.m. but service resumed at 5:35 p.m. SEPTA says delays are expected.

There have been a few power outages across the state so far, with no more than two dozen at any particular time, said Gary Laing, spokesman for the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.

Snowfall totals

By 8 p.m., the Delaware Environmental Observing System was reporting Greenville had the highest storm todal with 7.4 inches of snow. Newark measured 4.6 inches, Dover 5.0, Laurel 4.8 and Bethany Beach 2.6 inches.

The National Weather Service said the 3.9 inches of snow recorded at New Castle Airport broke the record for the day, which was 3.7 inches set in 1981.

The snow’s slow arrival, particularly in Kent County, where it started about 10 a.m., and in early afternoon in Sussex County, may reduce the final snow accumulation, National Weather Service forecasters say. New Castle County and Kent County are likely to top out at 6 inches or so, at the low end of predictions, with Sussex possibly falling short of the 4 to 6 inches predicted earlier.

North winds may gust to 20 mph and visibility may be reduced to a quarter mile at times, the National Weather Service says.

Crashes reported

State police said 47 property damage accidents were in New Castle County, 40 in Kent and 52 in Sussex. Of the accidents with injuries, 8 were in New Castle County, six in Kent and three in Sussex.

DelDOT reported crashes closing one lane of Route 1 north of Route 299 near Odessa just after 9 a.m. DelDOT earlier had reported icy conditions in the southbound lanes in the area. Another crash south of Route 299 closed a lane about 10:50 a.m. And at 11 a.m., the left lane of northbound I-95 at Route 1 was closed by an accident.

In Kent County, a rollover crash occurred about 11:35 a.m. on Midstate Road (Route 12) east of Felton, and another rollover occurred about 2 p.m. on Route 1 near Old Cemetery Road north of Milford.

The speed limit on Interstate 495 was reduced to 45 mph due to the weather, and the limit on the Delaware Memorial Bridge was cut to 40 mph. The New Jersey Turnpike speed limit was reduced to 35 mph for its entire length.

AccuWeather earlier today was forecasting 6 to 10 inches of snow for Kent and New Castle counties, with 3 to 6 in Sussex.

As of 6 a.m., nearly an inch of rain had fallen in parts of the state and snow was beginning to fall in New Castle County. The snow started after a quick round of sleet about 10 a.m. in Kent County, and later in Sussex.

Markell issued this statement: “Given the timing and predicted snow totals, the DelDOT crews will be out statewide today.  Roads may be clear through the morning rush hour, but the expected snow mid-day will force DelDOT crews to focus their efforts on keeping the primary roads clear. As a result, secondary and tertiary roads are likely to be snow-covered for a longer period of time. The afternoon commute may be particularly difficult, depending on snow totals, and employers are encouraged to take into account conditions later in the day.  We suggest drivers who do not need to travel refrain from going on the roads today, particularly during the heaviest snowfall, to give DelDOT plows time and ability to work.”

The weather service issued a winter storm warning until 7 tonight.

The temperature will fall to about 24 degrees upstate by 5 p.m., then plunge into single digits overnight, with a wind chill as low as 5 below zero, the weather service predicts.

Code Purple sites, which use volunteers to manage operations, are being activated in all three counties,  said Jill Fredel, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Services. To be connected to Code Purple resources, call Delaware 2-1-1, or search for “Code Purple” on the Delaware 2-1-1 mobile app or on its website at www.delaware211.org.

Offices, schools closed Thursday

State government offices and all 19 public school districts across Delaware decided early to close for the day.

Most charter and private schools also are closing.

New Castle County and Sussex County government offices are closed for the day. Wilmington and Newark city offices are closed. Newark alderman’s court is closed.

Kent County offices are opening on time but liberal leave policy is in effect for employees. Dover city offices are opening on time but may adjust later as the storm hits. Dover trash pickup is starting early and will continue until weather prevents it.

Delaware courts are closed statewide except for 24-hour Justice of the Peace courts.

University of Delaware campuses in New Castle County and the Sharp Campus in Lewes are closed for the day. Classes will not meet.

Delaware State University also closed its campuses in Dover, Sussex and Wilmington.

Delaware Technical Community College campuses are closed in all three counties.

Georgetown officials activated the town’s snow emergency plan. Dover police reminded residents of requirements during a snowfall. Seaford also reminded residents of snow removal ordinances.

Middletown officials warned residents that illegally parked vehicles may be ticketed.