With Dennis at bay, Shore copes with salt; Coating on power lines causes outages as resort readies for holiday crowd


Nearly a week after erratic Dennis began threatening the mid-Atlantic region, officials in Ocean City and on the Delaware shore were dealing with a new problem yesterday -- a thick coating of salt on electrical lines that has caused intermittent power outages throughout Delmarva.

As the meandering tropical storm and its 60-mph winds lingered about 190 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C. -- as it has for days -- authorities in Maryland and Delaware said they were going ahead with plans for a relatively normal, albeit cloudy, Labor Day weekend. Forecasters expected the storm to drift westward today, perhaps coming ashore on the Outer Banks of North Carolina or along the Virginia border tomorrow or Monday.

"We've not heard anything so far that would change plans for this weekend," said Ocean City Mayor James N. Mathias Jr. "We're fine right now, hoping we can open the beach for swimming this weekend. We'll see what happens if the storm comes ashore or changes position."

In Maryland's resort, public works crews teamed with eight local volunteer fire companies and Conectiv, the Eastern Shore's largest utility, to form a tanker truck convoy on Coastal Highway.

"We've had five straight days of northeast winds and no rain; we started power-washing lines on Thursday, and we'll continue that [today]," said Conectiv spokesman Jay Mason. "We'd like to keep the lights on in Ocean City this weekend."

About 11,500 customers have lost power in the past two days, Mason said, including 6,500 in Ocean City who were without electricity for about three hours yesterday.

Beaches remained closed to swimmers from Delaware to the southern tip of Assateague, although surfers were allowed to enter the water in Ocean City yesterday.

Assateague State Park opened for the first time in three days yesterday, assistant maintenance supervisor James Barbely said.

"We've lost a little of the dunes, but we've not had any serious damage," Barbely said. "We'll see what happens this weekend. I've been here 26 years, and I've never seen a storm quite like this one."

Delaware officials said Rehoboth Beach and other coastal towns have suffered beach erosion, but storm-washed sand is expected to return, once the storm subsides. Dennis has amounted to little more than a good-sized nor'easter, they said.

"It has a name and it came in August instead of February; otherwise, it's typical of storms we see in the winter," said John Hughes, Delaware's director of soil and water conservation. "People who come this weekend are going to see dry beach in most places, even at high tide. Frankly, Dennis was not a serious storm."

Pub Date: 9/04/99

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