Few residents who lived along the Delaware coast in 1962 will ever forget the “storm of the century.” The powerful northeaster that pounded the coast from March 6 – 8 that year destroyed dozens of oceanfront homes and businesses, flooded communities, and snatched away lives. Seven people were killed in Delaware alone.
On Friday, March 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center, a free workshop will be held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the ’62 storm, and the public is invited to attend. The event is sponsored by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program, with additional support from the Delaware Geological Survey and the City of Rehoboth Beach.
“We want to both commemorate the past and prepare for the future at this workshop,” says Dr. Wendy Carey, coastal processes specialist for the UD Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, and one of the event’s organizers. “The ’62 storm is the most damaging coastal storm on record in Delaware, but if a storm of that magnitude were to hit us tomorrow, how would we fare? There are many more people living along the coast now than there were in 1962,” she notes. “We hope this workshop will heighten residents’ awareness of the measures they can take to increase the storm resistance of their homes and properties.”
Keynote speaker for the event is Christopher P. Jones, a registered professional engineer who specializes in coastal engineering and coastal zone management. Jones has directed numerous projects that characterize coastal flood and erosion conditions and has worked to incorporate these findings into building design practices. He currently is a consultant to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on post-storm building performance assessments and has played a significant role in revising the Coastal Construction Manual. He also has extensive familiarity with the Delaware coast, particularly flood hazards along Delaware Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Inland Bays.
Additional speakers from DNREC, Sea Grant, the Delaware Geological Survey, and the Delaware Emergency Management Agency will provide information about past and present storm parameters and damage potential, inland and tidal flooding, storm response technology, evacuation issues, and the impacts of the ’62 storm on state and national policies and programs.
John Hughes, director of DNREC’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation, encourages all coastal residents to attend the workshop. “Perhaps more than any other single event, the 1962 northeaster exemplifies Delaware’s vulnerability to severe wind and flooding,” Hughes says. “The property costs and human suffering resulting from that storm underscore the importance of statewide mitigation and preparedness initiatives for future coastal storms, including a well-managed dune and beach system. Thanks to the foresight of the General Assembly and our governors over the past 40 years, as well as strong interagency cooperation, Delaware has a comprehensive beach protection and storm readiness plan in place.”
A highlight of the event will be a slide show featuring photographs of the ’62 storm provided by local residents. Educational exhibits from several state, federal, and non-profit agencies also will be on display.
While the seminar is free, seating is limited and reservations are required. Register on-line at www.ocean.udel.edu/seagrant/mas/62storm.html or contact Rita Baty at (302) 645-4346 for a registration form.