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Essential Guide to Natural Disasters in Delaware
A natural disaster is any event that causes significant physical damage or disruption, such as a hurricane.
This article will explore all of the different disasters which could happen in Delaware and how to prepare for them. Even though Delaware is not known for major natural disasters like California, Alaska or Colorado, but, it is quite exposed and vulnerable to several, especially when factoring in sea level rise and other effects of climate change.
Drought & Extreme Heat in Delaware
Drought is an event that occurs when there is a lack of rain, which typically leads to very dry conditions. Extreme heat is an event that occurs when the temperature reaches 100° F or higher for three days or more. Delaware does not usually experience drought because it has plenty of rainfall throughout the year, but extreme heat is also possible because temperatures have been high in the past few years. However, these are still very remote risks and Delaware will continue to be one of the least likely places to experience drought or extreme heat.
Earthquakes in Delaware
According to the Delaware Geological Survey, even though Delaware was re-classified as a medium-risk seismic state from a low-risk seismic state in 1997, the risk of earthquake remains low.
However, Delaware's most recent significant earthquake occurred in Delaware on October 9, 1871, and caused severe property damage. In Wilmington, Delaware's largest city, chimneys came down, glass shattered, and citizens were largely perplexed by the odd occurrence. Heavier damage was observed in northern Delaware at Newport, New Castle, and Oxford, Pennsylvania. In several areas, earth sounds characterized as "rumbling" and "explosive" accompanied the shock.
Earthquakes are not a large risk for Delawareans, but they can happen.
Floods in Delaware
Floods are an event that occurs when there is excessive rain for a prolonged period of time, which brings in more water than the land can absorb. Flooding can happen anywhere in Delaware, but coastal flooding, for example, will be more likely to occur in the areas outside Wilmington.
As sea levels rise due to climate change, these areas are increasingly at risk of being flooded. If you live in a flood zone area, you should take measures to protect your property. Coastal flooding is not much of an issue for people who live inland because it will only affect people near the coastlines where they are most vulnerable to floods.
Hurricanes in Delaware
Hurricanes are a type of tropical cyclone that forms in the Atlantic Ocean. When they make landfall, they are usually called "typhoons" or "cyclones". Hurricanes are known for their high winds, heavy rain, and storm surges. Hurricanes form because water vapor rises into the atmosphere and condenses into liquid droplets or ice crystals due to atmospheric heating. Warm ocean currents fuel these storms by providing heat sources. When hurricanes make landfall, they cause tremendous damage. Hurricane-force winds can be felt miles inland. Heavy rain can lead to flash floods, which causes more damage than tornadoes. Storm surges can reach heights of 20 feet which causes huge amounts of coastal flooding. This flooding is the most destructive force of hurricanes because it can lead to serious damage.
The Delaware coastline is highly vulnerable to hurricanes (though usually a tropical storm) because it is surrounded by water on three sides. The biggest city in Delaware, Wilmington, is also extremely vulnerable due to its port and location along the coast. From Hurricane Agnes to Hurricane Sandy to the aftereffects of Hurricane Zeta, Delaware is highly susceptible to hurricane impacts - even without direct impact.
September is the most common month in Delaware for hurricanes.
Industrial & Nuclear Disasters in Delaware
Industrial disasters are events that occur when there is a malfunction of industrial equipment. There are various industrial disasters, but the five most serious are explosions, fires, releases, spills, and collapses. All of these disasters can cause death or injury to workers or people living in the area.
Nuclear disasters are events that occur when nuclear reactors have accidents. There are four different stages of disaster: reactor meltdowns, radiation contamination, weaponization of nuclear material, and radiological terrorism. All of these events will cause death to citizens in the area who have not been able to evacuate before or during the event.
Delaware is located only miles from some of America's largest nuclear and industrial sites. As Delawareans found out in the 1970s with Three Mile Island, even though nuclear energy is safe, even a threatening emergency can have massive effects on the state.
Industrial disasters are the same way. Even though they are not "natural" - they can have the same effects of natural disasters with wide-scale, unexpected, long-term damage.
It's important for Delawareans to at least have a knowledge of major industrial areas, evacuation routes, and options for sheltering in place.
Power Outages in Delaware
One of Delaware's most notable and common natural disaster is power outages. The state's electricity grid, like many others, is vulnerable to problems such as downed power lines and power plant malfunctions.There are three different types of power outages: service outages, localized outages, and widespread blackouts.
Service outage is the smallest type of outage that only affects a single line or part of an area with power. Localized power outage is when one area has lost electricity which could be affecting one building or few buildings in a small town. Widespread blackouts affect entire areas such as neighborhoods, cities, and counties.
Poor weather conditions and aging infrastructure can cause these problems with the electrical grid. Power plants use a lot of chemicals that can spill out in these power outages. Power outages do happen in Delaware and they happen a few times a year on average - especially in extreme weather conditions.
Even though we usually think of power outages as result of a natural disaster, power outages can cause natural disaster-like consequences on their own. Power outage is the one natural disaster that affects everyone in the state when it happens. No matter what, when or where you are, you will be affected by a power outage.
Severe Weather & Thunderstorms in Delaware
Thunderstorms are the most common of all storms, but they are very difficult to predict. Severe thunderstorms can occur anywhere in Delaware. Thunderstorms cause flash flood warnings, high winds, hail, and tornados which can lead to damage to buildings and homes. The NWS uses warnings for severe thunderstorm watches and alerts for thunderstorms which will affect your area soon.
It is important to know the warning types because you will need to act quickly depending on what kind of storm it is.
Sinkholes in Delaware
According to the Delaware Geologic Survey, In the Hockessin region, geologic mapping reveals a location where marble and other carbonate-bearing rocks are particularly prone to sinkhole occurrence. Sinkholes are created when water enters voids in the limestone or dolomite, causing the formation to collapse. Most sinkholes are not dangerous - they mostly damage trees and cars. However, some sinkholes can lead to death or injuries if you don't pay attention or know that there is a possibility of it happening then.
Tornadoes in Delaware
Tornadoes are the most dangerous natural disaster that could occur in Delaware. Tornadoes can cause death to citizens in the area who have not been able to evacuate before or during the event. Tornadoes are also considered to be one of the worst natural disasters because they are very unpredictable - you never know when they will happen. The 2004 tornado in New Castle, DE was especially damaging.
Tsunamis in Delaware
Like earthquakes, Delawareans are unlikely to think about tsunamis. They are rare, but they do happen - and Delaware is particularly exposed due to the Bay and low-lying coastline.
According to an NBS News report, a "tidal wave" violently tossed ships docked along the Delaware River south of Philadelphia at about 11 a.m. ET on Jan. 8, 1817, according to newspapers of the time. Turns out, that tidal wave was actually a tsunami, launched by a powerful magnitude-7.4 earthquake that struck at about 4:30 a.m. ET near the northern tip of the Bermuda Triangle.
Tsunami risk, though, is still not conclusive. The Delaware Geological Survey is currently mapping historical and potential tsunami risk. Until then, it's easy to simply note high ground and flood risk of your property.
Winter Weather in Delaware
Winter weather in Delaware is difficult to predict. Like other small Northeastern states like Connecticut, it's important to be prepared for snow, sleet, ice storm, wind gusts, and extreme cold. Winter weather can cause damage to homes due to power outages which might happen if the snow gets too high or freeze wires. Nor'easters are an expected occurrence in Delaware. Nor'easters are especially dangerous because they happen every year for about two months. If you are in an area where a nor'easter is expected, make sure to prepare yourself and your family with the right materials that will help you survive without electricity or heat if it gets too cold outside.
According to NOAA's National Weather Service, most of Delaware is very susceptible to snow. There are several ways that you can prepare yourself for the upcoming snow storm. First of all, make sure to keep your car's gas tank full in case you get stuck somewhere on the road and need to wait for help. Another important thing that you should do is to purchase an emergency kit or bug out bag ahead of time so that you can have it on hand in case of an emergency. Make sure to check your kit regularly to make sure that the batteries are working and that you have enough non-perishable food, water, blankets, etc.
It can be difficult to think about natural disasters when you're living in the moment. Yet, ignoring these risks could lead to significant damages or even death if they happen without warning. The good news is that there are many ways that you can prepare for a disaster and get help before it happens. We hope this article has given you some insight into how Delawareans might react during different types of natural disasters - flooding, tornadoes, tsunamis, winter weather. Be sure to explore Delaware's official Emergency Management website for more detail on emergency preparedness and disaster recovery / disaster response.