Coastal Delaware’s Sunny, Stormy, Foggy, Hot, Breezy, Humid, Chilly Weather
Coastal Delaware’s moderate temps and sea breezes are just part of the area’s appeal, but they offer both residents and visitors an irresistible embrace
Gail and David Simpson have a perfectly good house, in a shaded suburb just north of Wilmington. It’s a comfortable Colonial-style home, Gail says, and the development has nice streets and sidewalks for taking a stroll.
Even so, they and their daughter, Risa, enjoy spending as much time as they can in Rehoboth Beach, where they have a condo in the nearby Canal Corkran development.
A big part of their attraction to the area is the coastal Sussex weather.
“We like the temperate temperatures down at the beach,” Gail says. “It can be hot in Wilmington, and then when we get down by the ocean, it’s cooler.”
The opposite can be true in winter, she adds. While it certainly gets cold in Rehoboth — the lowest temperature recorded at a weather station on the boardwalk is
2.8 degrees Fahrenheit, on Feb. 20, 2015 — the Atlantic Ocean has a moderating effect. On that same February day, a weather station 30 miles inland in Seaford recorded a low of 1.8 degrees. The average high in Seaford for the month was 28.1 degrees; in Rehoboth, it was 35.6.
Simpson isn’t a newbie when it comes to visiting Delaware beaches. Growing up in Bridgeville, she and her family used to go to Rehoboth Beach every Sunday evening to stroll along the boardwalk and perhaps have dinner. When she was in junior high school, her parents started renting a cottage for a week each summer, a tradition that lasted until about eight years ago.
“It was always more comfortable here than in Bridgeville,” recalls Simpson, speaking from her condo. “For the first five years, we rented a cottage less than a block from the beach. It didn’t have air conditioning, but we opened all the windows and always had a breeze.”
She’s not the first person to savor that sea breeze. People have sought out the cooling ocean air for millennia: Augustus, the first Roman emperor, had a residence on Capri, an island off Italy’s coast, where he would go to escape Rome’s summer heat.
A Town for All Seasons
Year-round residents are at home with Dewey Beach’s ebbs and flows
You’ve seen Dewey Beach at the height of summer. An extraordinary number of people populate the town — the dog walkers at dawn, families toting young ones to the beach mid-morning, retirees enjoying restaurants in the evenings and the flood of college students and other young people thronging the bars and spilling onto the sidewalks in the wee hours.
But what about the other seasons? And who are the locals that get to call this place home for the entire year, who so fiercely believe its motto that “Dewey Beach is a way of life”? Only a few hundred hardy souls occupy this sometimes precarious strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Rehoboth Bay — essentially a sandbar just a mile and a half long — and they are a surprisingly diverse group.
One of them is Phil Winkler. After retiring as a sergeant first class from a 20-year Army career, he started his own business as a database analyst, another pursuit from which he’s now (mostly) retired. Having vacationed in the area for decades, Winkler moved here full time almost three years ago. He and his West Highland white terrier share their Read Avenue cottage with girlfriend Ellen Blocher and her golden retriever.
Preserving the Past
Coastal historical societies have made heritage a community focal point — and a tourist attraction
When Mike DiPaolo became the executive director of the Lewes Historical Society in 2001, he was the nonprofit’s first and only employee. The annual operating budget was just under $80,000 a year. “It was a labor of love,” says DiPaolo, who has an undergraduate degree in archeology and a master’s in library and information science. Today the society has eight employees and a $500,000 operating budget. “It’s very gratifying to see the growth of the organization,” he says.
The evolution extends to the society’s physical presence, which includes vintage buildings on Shipcarpenter Street and four others sprinkled throughout the town’s historic district. By July 4, the society plans to open the Lewes History Museum in the old Lewes Public Library, now the Margaret H. Rollins Community Center on Savannah Road.
The Rehoboth Beach Historical Society is also on an upward path. The group’s Rehoboth Beach Museum is raising funds for a second-story exhibit space. To the south, the Ocean View Historical Society, formed in 2008 to restore the Tunnell-West House, this month is scheduled to take possession of the Evans-West House and its distinctive barn, which were donated to the organization.
These groups play important roles in resort towns. “History and heritage is a growing year-round tourism niche in Southern Delaware,” says Tina Coleman, media manager for Southern Delaware Tourism. As the coastal area faces continual development, the societies serve as cultural touchstones that preserve each town’s heritage.
But it’s not easy. Historical societies of all sizes still encounter challenges, including, in some cases, shoestring budgets and a volunteer base that fluctuates with the seasons.