State of emergency declared in Vermont
By Eric Blaisdell
STAFF WRITER | October 29,2012
Gov. Peter Shumlin speaks Sunday afternoon at a press conference to discuss Hurricane Sandy preparations in Vermont.
WATERBURY — Gov. Peter Shumlin on Sunday declared a state of emergency in Vermont in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, but he said this storm will be different from Irene.
Shumlin held a press conference Sunday afternoon at the Emergency Operations Center at the State Office Complex in Waterbury. The problem with this storm, which is expected to hit the state Monday afternoon, will not be flooding from rain.
“Wind is our enemy in this storm, not massive flooding,” Shumlin said, adding winds are expected to be 60 to 80 mph for as long as 12 hours. There will be some rain, but Sandy is only expected to drop 2 to 4 inches on the state.
He said two regions which are expected to get hit hardest by the coming winds are the Northeast Kingdom from St. Johnsbury north to the Canadian border and the Rutland area.
In preparation for the storm, at 8 p.m. Sunday Rutland City school administrators cancelled classes for today. Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras said Sunday night that the governor called him and told him that forecasters are predicting that the city would be “ground zero” for the storm in Vermont.
Shumlin said at the press conference earlier Sunday that Sandy will no longer be a hurricane when it arrives in Vermont, but will be a strong Nor’easter as the storm combines with a weather front coming from the west.
Shumlin compared Sandy to a major storm in 2007 that toppled thousands of trees, except that Sandy will impact a bigger area.
Another difference between Sandy and Irene will be the speed at which the storms traveled through Vermont.
“The frustrating part about this storm (Sandy) is that, while Irene moved rather quickly, this one is moving painfully slowly,” Shumlin said.
That means the potential for destruction from the high winds will be greater than if the system were to travel through the area rapidly.
Shumlin said he declared the state of emergency Sunday so the National Guard can be deployed if needed and the state would qualify for federal emergency relief funds if needed.
Sandy is expected to cause massive power outages for extended periods of time. In preparation for the storm, Shumlin said 200 utility workers are already prepared to go to work on downed power lines and to reconnect Vermonters who lose power during the storm. More utility line workers from Canada are also on the way.
“That does not mean I am expecting the worst,” Shumlin said. “We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
Shumlin said the public should remove items from their lawns to keep them from blowing around and causing damage and perhaps injury. That includes political campaign signs seen in front of many homes during an election year.
“I am nonpartisan when it comes to storms and try to be nonpartisan in other areas of my job, but I am saying take down all lawn signs,” said Shumlin, who is running for reelection. “It’s common sense to not have political lawn signs blowing around.”
Green Mountain Power issued a statement saying that 130 tree removal contractors have been lined up and are also ready to go to work.
The utility has also added a “Power Out” button to its Facebook page, giving people another way to report an outage, in addition to calling the GMP hotline at 1-888-835-4672.
Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, who was also at the press conference Sunday, asked people to check on the elderly, the isolated, and anyone else who might be especially vulnerable during the storm.
“We all need to work together,” Flynn said.