Snow accumulation was the heaviest in southwestern Sussex County, but the wind caused problems with blowing and drifting across the region

Delaware spent the early part of this week digging out from its first major snowstorm of the season, though efforts to clear roads were hampered by strong winds and shifting snowdrifts.

The largest accumulations from the coastal storm were in southwestern Sussex County, where some communities were socked with a foot of snow. Depths tapered off to the north. Kent County saw between 6 and 8 inches of snow, while parts of New Castle County recorded less than an inch.

As the storm moved in and began blanketing the region Dec. 26, Gov. Jack Markell declared a limited state of emergency in the afternoon and put into effect a new system of severe weather driving rules approved earlier this year by the General Assembly, in the wake of last February’s brutal blizzards.

Through the next day, Markell ordered a Level I driving restriction in Kent and Sussex counties. That restriction discourages unnecessary driving, but does not outlaw it. A Level II ban makes it a crime to drive for anyone other than emergency workers or employees of a business that has a severe weather waiver. The Level III ban applies to all drivers, except emergency personnel.

In Dover, city workers went to 12-hour shifts starting at 8 a.m. Dec. 26. City Manager Tony DePrima said the operations began with sanding and salting, then switched to plowing.

Crews worked round the clock through the morning of Dec. 28, mostly re-clearing snow that had drifted on to already cleared roads.

“We didn’t get as much snow, we were on the lower end of that 6 to 8 inch [forecast],” DePrima said. “The biggest problem we had is the blowing snow, mostly in subdivisions at the ends of town where they’re bordering farm areas.”

Any road or development near the wide-open, windswept fields on Dover’s outskirts was subject to heavy blowing and drifting.

But, the snow was light and powdery, which made plowing easy, DePrima said.

Dover did activate its newly retooled snow emergency plan, but city officials chose not to set up a call center to address residents’ concerns.

Even though the storm hit at the beginning of a workweek, DePrima said many people were off between the Christmas-New Year’s holidays.

The number of calls from citizens about snow removal didn’t compare, however, to the calls asking about trash pickup, said city Public Services Director Scott Koenig.

Trash collection was already behind with workers off Christmas Eve, but the snowstorm made it impossible to catch up like the city would normally do.

Koenig said trash trucks weren’t able to get out at all Dec. 27, but collection began the next day.

He urged residents to put their trash cans out in unobstructed areas if possible, and be patient.

“I think we’re going to be behind schedule all week,” he said.

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