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March 2, 2012     Cape Gazette
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March 2, 2012
 

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Cape Gazette STORM OF FRIDAY, MARCH 2- MON DAY. MARCH 5, 2012 S7 I I' Storm of'62 etched in Cape Region history By Ron MacArthur ronm@capegazette.com It's the storm all others are compared to, yet those who lived through the Storm of'62 fred it hard to compare it to any- thing else.-Fifty years have done little to diminish the memories of people affected by the massive storm. Fifty years ago - during the first week of March - the Storm of the Century hit the Cape Region coast with unrelenting fury. A 1,000-mile wide nor'easter, the storm lingered off the coast for five con- secutive high tides. The oceanfront dune system from Maryland to Cape Henlopen was flattened. Three days of pounding surf, storm surge and seemingly endless extreme high tides brought heavy losses: seven deaths, more than $50 million in storm damage, $20 million in repair costs for the damaged beach, $20 million in personal property losses and destroyed businesses along the coast. In today's dollars, the to- tal losses would be more than $500 mil- lion. Nearly 2,000 homes sustained damage in Dewey Beach, South Bethany, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. Wave action destrpyed 28 of 29 oceanfront homes in Bethany, as well as every oceanfront home in South Bethany. The ocean swept straight through to the bay in Dewey Beach. Sand covered Route 1 - then Route 14 - from Dewey Beach to Indian River Inlet and beyond, leaving the highway impassable. Damage was not confined to the coast- line as unprecedented high tides drove water inland to create the worst floods in memory. Downtown Milton, Millsbore and Milford were flooded; the water had nowhere to go because low-tide water re- mained at normal high-tide levels. Delaware Bay coastal towns were cut off from inland areas with flood waters of more than 4 feet. A family of six was lost in South Bow- ers Beach when their car was overtaken by water as they attempted to flee the area. Another person who refused to evacuate died in Slaughter Beach. Most coastal roads were impassable as the dunes were destroyed, leaving 4 feet of sand along Route 1. The Boardwalk, which had been in place without damage for nearly 80 years, was splintered be- yond recognition. Many Rehoboth Beach landmarks - Dolle's, Pink Pony cocktail lounge, Belhaven Hotel, Atlantic Sands Hotel, Playland (now Funland), Henlopen Hotel, Stuart-Kingston Gallery - were ei- ther completely destroyed or badly dam- aged. Other oceanfront hotels and hOmes were ripped offtheir foundations; some were laid open with doors and curtains hanging in the breeze. "Huge waves superimposed on the storm surge were able to break on struc- tures that are not normally hit d(iring storms," said Wendy Carey, coastal haz- ards specialist with the Delaware Sea Grant program. After the storm, police and Delaware Army and Air National Guard were called in to keep people away and prevent looting. Carey went to see the storm damage as a child. "I remember finding shiny bath- room tilesburied in the sand like little treasures," she said. "You could find everything including the kitChen sink." The makings of a perfect storm The Storm of'62 - also known as the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 - had all the makings of a perfect storm. It was un- usual in its development, makeup and be- havior. Three low-pressure systems formed off the East Coast, held in place by a high-pressure system over eastern Canada, Carey said. The high-pressure Continued on page 60 Page design by Jen Ellingsworth