Normally, when you think of states with a lot of disasters, Delaware isn’t one to come to mind. Florida has hurricanes, California has earthquakes, but did you know Delaware has had its fair share of natural and man-made disasters, too? From explosions, to storms, to fires, check out our list of the most horrifying disasters in Delaware.
1. The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962
The weather report for the first week of March 1962 told of a slight chance of rain early in the week, with it clearing by Tuesday. By late Monday night, a mild nor'easter was predicted and by daybreak on Tuesday, it was becoming clear that the forecast was horrifically wrong. The storm did not clear out until Friday, and when the water receded, the damage was tremendous. The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, as it’s been called ever since, was the single most destructive storm in Delaware's history, with millions of dollars in property damage and 7 lives lost.
2. The January 2016 Blizzard - "Jonas"
Record coastal flooding in Lewes, one man dead in Magnolia, a chemical leak in Delaware City, 20 miles of dunes significantly damaged, massive evacuations and major roads closed due to flooding - yeah, this past January, the weather was not kind to us. The January 2016 Blizzard, known unofficially as "Winter Storm Jonas," was one of the most destructive storms to ever hit the East Coast, and Delaware took quite a lot of damage. It was a Category 5 storm, which is the most extreme rating on the scale. I was snowed in, and then flooded in, for days.
3. The Nor'Easter of 2009 - Christmas Storm
It was a week before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring... actually, we were all stirring, because we'd been snowed in for a day! Over a foot of snow fell in less than 24 hours, leaving a messy gridlock during an important weekend for retailers. The snow piles were huge and the roads were impassable. The storm cost Delaware hundreds of thousands of dollars.
4. Tanker Collision, C&D Canal
While not the most costly, the collision of the Phoenix and the Pan-Massachusetts in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was certainly a disaster in Delaware that affected many people. With 5 dead and 40 injured, this goes down as a dark moment in Delaware's history. One tanker, the empty 23,000 ton Phoenix, exploded and split in two. Part of the vessel washed up onshore and continued to burn. The other tanker, the Pan-Massachusetts, caught fire with a cargo of 150,000 barrels of high-octane gasoline. She was quickly abandoned by crew and drifted to burn on a sandbar nearby. Three explosions rocked Wilmington and flaming gasoline covered the murky waters. Rescuers from Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland responded to the scene.
5. The Delmar Fires, 1892 & 1902
Nearly all of Delmar was burned to the ground in August of 1892, leaving 300 people homeless. One casualty was found, but the body was so badly disfigured it was never identified. The fire started in a Main Street post office, and swift winds quickly took the flames to the town. A bucket brigade was useless, and the Salisbury firemen who responded with an engine and hose couldn't find a good water supply. The town rebuilt shortly after the ashes stopped smoldering, but a decade later, the town burned down again.
6. The Newark McDonald's Explosion, 1976
Here's one you probably remember. In the early morning hours, a Newark Delaware McDonalds exploded - injuring 23 people. Somehow, everybody got out alive, but several people were rushed to area hospitals with serious injuries. The restaurant was damaged so badly it was condemned and ordered torn down by city officials. The gas explosion blew out an entire wall, most of a second wall, caved in the roof and shattered windows and doors. Newark police chief William Brierley's statement blamed a gas leak in the kitchen, which was ignited by an oven pilot light.
7. The 1944 Hurricane
The 1944 Hurricane that tore apart New Jersey, Long Island, and New England had perhaps the most unique impact on Delaware - when the large "Thomas Tracy" ran around and split in two.
8. The Milton Fire, 1909
In August of 1909, almost the entire town of Milton was destroyed by fire. One hundred houses and businesses burned to the ground, leaving over $100,000 in loss - an incredible sum for the time. Hundreds of people were homeless and only 12 houses survived the blaze. Firefighting equipment was useless against the rapidly spreading inferno.
9. Amoco Chemical Explostion, 1980
in 1980, an explosion at the Amoco Chemical plastic plant destroyed or damaged four buildings, burned for over 12 hours, killed 5 and injured 30. Giant flames shot 100 feet into the air and nearly 1,000 residents were evacuated. Buildings within a (strangely enough) 12 mile radius felt the effects, shaking and taking damage to their doors and windows. The blast explosion damaged the plant's main water lines, making it difficult for firefighters to access water for almost an hour.
If you can’t get enough of these Delaware disasters, check out the collection of photos from the
Ash Wednesday Storm that we featured earlier this year.