Emergency Preparation
In June of 1998, the City of Lewes was designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a "Project Impact" community. "Project Impact" is a pre-disaster mitigation initiative funded by the Federal government to assist local communities to identify hazard vulnerabilities and implement the necessary actions to eliminate or reduce the effects of natural disasters on the community. With funding provided by FEMA, the City of Lewes completed projects to retrofit several of the City's critical facilities including Lewes City Hall, Power & Water Plant, Wastewater Treatment Plant, Fire Station and Beebe Medical Center against the effects of flooding and high wind events.
Following the closeout of the "Project Impact" grant in March 2001, former Lewes Mayor George H.P. Smith appointed a 10-member Mitigation Planning Team, chaired by former Lewes Councilperson A. Judson Bennett, to continue with the implementation of the City's mitigation strategy. The Team has developed a Hazard Mitigation Plan for the City that is part of the Sussex County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan is available for public review on the City's web site.
For additional information on pre-disaster mitigation techniques or to discuss the initiatives/projects of the Lewes Mitigation Planning Team, contact Mr. Nelson F. Wiles at Lewes City Hall, 302-645-7777 or e-mail nwiles@ci.lewes.de.us.
Following the severe flooding caused by two Nor-Easter's in January & February of 1998, the City of Lewes applied to the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), for federal funding made available to the State of Delaware through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Our applications were approved and the funding was used to elevate thirteen residential structures affected by past flooding events. The City worked with the homeowners to ensure compliance with applicable State and Federal requirements as the work was completed.
In 2005, the City received a grant under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Flood Mitigation Assistance Program as well as additional funding provided by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) to conduct an engineering survey of the areas within the city where recurring flooding is caused by stormwater and/or drainage issues. The survey includes a summary report with all analysis, computation, survey data and maps along with recommendations and cost estimates for recommended solutions.
Flooding in Lewes is caused by two sources: The Delaware Bay is the main source of water that directly affects Lewes Beach and areas adjacent to the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal. When tides are extremely high and winds are at their maximum due to the presence of the storm, the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal will also swell and begin flooding from the opposite side of the Delaware Bay. This effect was evident during the February 1998 storms. Flood waters can rise very quickly and the fast-moving waters can cause severe damage to structures.
A Hazard Vulnerability Study completed in 2000 reported that about a third of all parcels (606 out of 1784) in Lewes lie within 100-year flood plain boundaries and could be potentially impacted (potential flooding of base floor) by flooding caused by a hurricane or severe northeastern storm. The same study reported, using industry damage models, that Lewes could potentially experience $23,800,000 in flood damages as a result of a 100-year flood event, and concluded that, if the 1962 northeaster storm struck Lewes today, flood damages could potentially exceed $21,000,000.
PAST FLOODING EVENTS associated with hurricanes caused significant damage to the Delaware coast in 1933, 1944, and 1956. In 1933, a hurricane passed approximately 100 miles west of Delaware's shoreline. Delaware communities located along both the ocean and bay shorelines experienced high flooding levels. Flooding caused damage to structures located along the shoreline as well as street flooding. In 1944, a hurricane passed about 50 miles east of the Delaware shoreline and caused serious damage. Lewes experienced flooding that warranted evacuating residents from homes along the beach. In 1956, Hurricane Flossy caused severe flooding of the Delaware coastline and interior bay coasts. Road crews at Lewes used 500 tons of broken concrete, gravel and boulders in an attempt to prevent storm surge flooding. However, combined winds and high tides still caused serious damage to the City. The most recent and severe storms were northeastern storms that occurred in 1962 and 1998. The storm in March 1962 (Ash Wednesday) was particularly severe, with strong northeast winds lasting through five successive high tides. The high tides, combined with wind-driven waves, produced record high tide readings along the beach and inland bay areas, resulting in serious damage. The 1962 storm was estimated to be the 100-year event for the Delaware coast. Flooding from this storm caused damage to homes along the beach in Lewes and the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal overflowed resulting in damage to many canal-side structures. Analysis of the flood levels and high water marks following the 1962 storm suggest that the storm was approximately a 60-70 year event.
In 1998, two back to back northeasters struck the Delaware coast during January and February. The storms produces heavy rains, high winds, waves and tides. The first storm produced rainfall totaling over 3.5 inches, while the later storm produced rainfall of over 2.5 inches. As a result, bay water levels rose and caused the water levels in the canal to rise well over their banks. The portion of Lewes between the canal and Bay Avenue was inundated with flood waters. At the University of Delaware's College of Marine Studies, high water levels reached the corner of the Marine Operations Building, and part of the floating dock was detached. The storms of 1998 are estimated to be a 15-year event.
On June 16, 1995, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) updated the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for the entire State of Delaware, including the City of Lewes. Along with the new Base Flood Elevations (BFE), the Flood Zones were redetermined. Flood areas have been designated as Zones AE and VE, with the VE Zone being in the High Hazard Area, more particulary along the coast line. These special hazard areas are located within the 100-year flood plain. The 100-year flood plain is the flood elevation that has a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded during any given year. Thus, the 100-year flood could occur more than once in a relatively short period of time. Statistics indicate that a structure located in a special flood hazard area within the 100-year flood plain has a 26 percent chance of suffering flood damage during the term of a 30-year mortgage.
You owe it to yourself and your family to be as knowledgeable as possible with respect to the dangers from flooding. The first thing you should do is check your flood hazard. Flood maps and flood protection references are available for your review at Lewes City Hall. Contact Mr. Henry Baynum, NFIP/CRS Coordinator at 645-7777 for a map determination and base flood elevation requirements.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has prepared a manual that illustrates a broad range of flood-proofing techniques that you can use to help reduce the impacts of flooding on your home and your belongings. The manual is available free of charge at Lewes City Hall.
All development in designated flood plain areas requires a permit (not just the construction of the building). You must contact the Building Department before you start any development. The City of Lewes requires that, if the cost of reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement to a building equals or exceeds 50% of the building's market value ("Substantial Improvement"), then the building must meet the same construction requirements as a new building. In addition, any building that has been substantially damaged must be brought up to the same standards (e.,g., a residence damaged so that the cost of repairs equals or exceeds 50% of the building's value before it was damaged must be elevated above the base flood elevation). If you have any questions regarding the permitting process or the rules regarding "substantial improvements," please contact Mr. Henry Baynum, Lewes Building Official and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Coordinator at Lewes City Hall at 645-7777. If you see any development in the flood plain without a permit, please contact City Hall at 645-7777.
Flooding can come with little warning. Purchase a NOAA weather radio and stay alert to storm advisories. Tune your radio to frequency 162.550 MHZ (Lewes, DE) or 162.474 MHZ (Salisbury, MD) for the most current weather information. 
  • FLOOD WATCH - flooding is possible within the watch area.
  • FLOOD WARNING - flooding is occurring or will occur soon in the warning area.
The primary method of public notification and information of situations requiring prompt action such as evacuation or sheltering-in-place will be through the use of the State-wide Delaware Emergency Notification System (DENS). DENS is a Reverse-911 system that uses Geographic Information System (GIS) databases to provide emergency notification to the entire state or to an area as specifically defined as 10 houses on one street. DENS is capable of dialing as many as 300 phone numbers in one minute. The system will be activated, when necessary, through the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center (911 Center by designated, authorized individuals of the City. In addition, when a serious storm threatens our area, the National Weather Service, along with the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center, provides flood warning and evacuation data to local radio (WGMD-FM 92.7, WWTR-FM 95.9, and WKIX-FM 106.0) and local television stations through the Emergency Alert System (EAS). When required, Lewes police and fire personnel will also use vehicles and loudspeakers to provide door-to-door warnings to those areas threatened by flooding.
If you find yourself trapped in your home and cannot move to higher ground or to a provided shelter, contact the City of Lewes Police Department at 645-6264 or contact the City Manager's Office at 645-7777 and arrangements will be made to assist you.
Tidal flooding can occur rapidly. Be prepared to evacuate the flooded area quickly and with caution. These events can occur during extremely cold and blizzard-like conditions. 
Take along your family's disaster supplies kit and a complete change of clothing (appropriate for the weather conditions) and foot ware for each person (include rain gear, sturdy shoes, blankets and/or sleeping bags). If you take your pet, take pet supplies (food, water, medications, carrier, etc). Lock windows and doors; turn off the gas, water and electricity; and secure all loose objects outside such as garbage cans, awnings, garden tools, etc. If you have a back flow valve installed to protect your home from sewer backup, don't forget to "disconnect" the sewer line before leaving your home - it can stop raw sewage from entering and ruining your home.
DON'T FORGET also to notify a family member or friend outside the area of your destination and estimated time of arrival (or time of next notification).
Sussex County Emergency Operations Center will designate appropriate shelter locations to be opened to the public during emergency situations. Shelter locations will vary depending upon the circumstances of the event. Stay tuned to our local Emergency Alert System (EAS) radio stations and monitor your weather radio for current information. The City of Lewes in conjunction with the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center will announce emergency shelter locations. In addition, Sussex County will make every attempt to post current shelter locations on the county's website at www.co.sussex.de.us/depts.EOC
Keep the family's disaster supply kit ready and have enough food and water for at least three days . Protect your valuable documents. Make your home more resistant by preparing to board up windows and glass doors and anchor loose yard objects or bring them indoors. Fill the family car with gasoline and have sufficient cash on hand (banks and ATMs may be temporarily closed). If you have pets, contact your veterinarian or local humane society for information on preparing your pets for an emergency (prepare your family's pet plan in advance). Do not burn candles or open flames as a source of light. Work with your neighbors by checking on the elderly and those with special needs. As the storm hits, gather your family in a safe room inside your home such an interior room with no windows and one that will not flood). Listen to local officials for further instructions and following the storm, watch out for downed power lines.
Two feet of water will carry away most vehicles. Therefore, do not drive where water is over the road, If, by mistake, you find yourself driving in water and the car stalls, get out of the car and climb to higher ground immediately
Our drainage ditches, wetlands, dunes and canals are extremely important in protecting properties from severe flooding. The drainage systems in Lewes must be kept clean. Debris, even grass clippings, in ditches and streams may obstruct the flow of water and cause overflow into streets, yards and homes. As a project of the Lewes Mitigation Planning Team, the City is currently planning the clearing of debris-filled ditches in the northwest wetland areas to help improve storm drainage within the City. Owners of properties with storm drain appurtenances (especially ditches) are also encouraged to maintain the existing systems located on their properties.
Dumping in these areas is illegal and anyone seeing this type of activity should notify the authorities, the City of Lewes Police Department at 645-6264, the City Manager's Office at 645-7777 or the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) at 1-800-662-8802.
Protecting your home, business and property involves a variety of changes that can vary in complexity and cost. Some you may be able to complete yourself and others are best left to the professionals. There are, however, several relatively inexpensive actions you can take to reduce the risk of flooding damage to your property.
The following measures may be taken to minimize the effects of flood waters and make cleanup easier:
ELEVATE the lowest floor of your home to the base flood elevation (or higher).
MOVE heating, air conditioning and hot water systems, washers, and dryers on a platform above flood level
MOVE furniture, valuables, essential records and files out of harm's way.
INSTALL back flow valves in sanitary and storm sewer lines.
INSTALL a sump pump and foundation drain system.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flooding in the United States causes more property damage than any other type of natural disaster. FEMA recommends, therefore, that EVERYONE HAVE FLOOD INSURANCE. WHY? There are several reasons: 90% of all natural disasters involve flooding and between 25% and 30% of flood insurance claims come from areas designated as low risk. Most homeowners insurance policies DO NOT cover losses resulting from flooding. Federal disaster assistance programs WILL NOT pay for flood damage UNLESS the President declares the affected area a Federal Disaster Area, and most floods are too small or local to qualify for Federal assistance. Some people have purchased flood insurance because the bank required it when they got a mortgage or home improvement loan. Usually these policies just cover the structure and not the contents. During the kind of flooding that typically occurs in Lewes, there is usually more damage to furniture and contents than there is to the structure. At last count, there were 758 flood insurance policies in Lewes. If you are covered, review your policy to be sure that you have contents coverage. If you do not have flood insurance, talk to your insurance agent. Even if prior flooding events did not affect your property or you have done some flood proofing, the next flood could be worse. Flood insurance covers all surface floods.
A "National Flood Insurance Program Brochure," prepared by the City's "Project Impact," is available at the counter at Lewes City Hall. The brochure provides the Top 10 Facts Every Consumer Needs to Know About the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)" as well as information about purchasing flood insurance, including a listing of participating insurance companies in Delaware.
1. Everyone lives in a flood zone - You don't need to live near water to be flooded. Floods are caused by storms, melting snow, hurricanes, and water backup due to inadequate or overloaded drainage systems, dam or levee failure.
2. Flood damage is not covered by homeowners policies - You can protect your home, business and belongings with flood insurance from an insurance company that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). You can insure your home with flood insurance for up to $250,000 for the building and $100,000 for your contents.
3. You can buy flood insurance no matter what your flood risk is - It doesn't matter whether your flood risk is high, medium or low, you can buy flood insurance as long as the community in which you live participates in the NFIP, and the City of Lewes is a participating member in good standing in the NFIP. And, it's a good idea to buy even in low or moderate risk areas since between 25 and 30 percent of all flood insurance claims come from low- to moderate-risk areas.
4. There is a low-cost policy for homes in low- to moderate-risk areas - The Preferred Risk Policy is available for just over $100.00 a year. You can buy up to $250,000 of coverage for your home and $60,000 of coverage for your contents.
5. Flood insurance is affordable - The average flood insurance policy costs about $300.00 a year for about $100,000 of coverage. In comparison, a disaster home loan can cost you more than $300.00 a month for $50,000 over a period of 18.5 years.
6. Flood insurance is easy to get - Flood insurance is available from many local insurance agencies and most will accept payment by credit card. (See listing of participating Delaware insurance companies on Page 5).
7. Contents coverage is separate, so renters can insure their belongings too - Up to $100,000 contents coverage is available for homeowners and renters. Whether you rent or own your home or business, make sure to ask your insurance representative about contents coverage. It is not automatically included with the building coverage.
8. Up to a total of $1 million of flood insurance for non-residential buildings - Up to $500,000 of coverage is available for non-residential buildings; and up to $500,000 is available for the contents of non-residential buildings.
9. There is usually a 30-day waiting period before the coverage goes into effect - Plan ahead so you are not caught without flood insurance when a flood damages your home or business. If the initial purchase of flood insurance is in connection with the making, increasing, extending or renewing of a loan, there is no waiting period. The coverage becomes effective at the time of the loan, provided your application and payment for the insurance is made at or prior to loan closing.
10. Federal disaster assistance is not the answer - Federal disaster assistance is only available if the President declares a disaster. More then 90 percent of all disasters in the United States are not presidentially declared. Flood insurance, on the other hand, pays even if a disaster is not declared.
The following are the companies listed on the National Flood Insurance Program's web site (floodsmart.gov) as companies that have flood insurance agents serving the 19958 Zip Code area (within a 50-mile radius):
Truitt Insurance Agency, (302) 645-6459
Williams Insurance Agency, Inc., (302) 227-2501
Lighthouse Insurance, (302) 732-0926
RE Evans Insurance, Inc., (302) 539-9052
Downes Insurance Associates, Inc., (302) 422-7234
Atlantic Smith Cropper, (410) 835-2000
Harrington Insurance, (302) 628-5243
Nyhus Agency, (302) 697-1800
Lentz Insurance & Financial Services, (302) 678-9901
CNC Insurance Associates, Inc., (302) 678-3860
Pratt Insurance, Inc., (302) 653-6681
For additional agents, please visit www.floodsmart.gov and click on "Find An Agent" (upper right corner of page).
OR, contract your own insurance agent for more information about the National Flood Insurance Program.
Flood protection can involve a variety of changes to your house and property -- changes that can vary in complexity and cost. You may be able to make some types of changes yourself. But complicated or large-scale changes and those that affect the structure of your house or its electric wiring and plumbing should be carried out only by a professional licensed contractor.
One example of flood protection is anchoring fuel tanks. This is something that skilled homeowners can probably do on their own. Unanchored fuel tanks can be easily moved by flood waters. These tanks pose serious threats not only to you, your family, and your house, but also to public safety and the environment. An unanchored tank outside your house can be driven into your walls, and it can be swept downstream where it can damage other houses. When an unanchored tank in your basement is moved by flood waters, the supply line can tear free and your basement can be contaminated by oil. Even a buried tank can be pushed to the surface by the buoyant effect of soil saturated with water.
Protecting Your Home from Flooding, FEMA, 1994
Repairing Your Flooded Home, FEMA-234, 1992
Flood Emergency and Residential Repair Handbook, FIA-13, 1986
Retrofitting Flood-Prone Residential Structures, FEMA-114, 1986
Protecting Building Utilities from Flood Damage, FEMA-348, 1999
To obtain copies of these and other FEMA documents, call FEMA's Publications Warehouse at 1-800-480-2520. Information is also available on the World Wide Web at www.fema.gov.
Visit FloodSmart.gov to learn about the benefits of flood insurance, assess your property's vulnerability to flooding, estimate your premium, or obtain additional information on the participating insurance companies listed above.
You may also contact the FEMA Distribution Center to request a copy of "Answers to Questions About the National Flood Insurance Program" by calling 800-480-2520 - Ask for publication #FIA-2.