Monday October 29, 2012

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Local officials were bracing Sunday for sustained, powerful winds to hit the area in the early afternoon, as Gov. Peter Shumlin declared a state of emergency ahead of the Hurricane Sandy to tap into federal resources and the Vermont National Guard if necessary.

Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette and Bennington Fire Department Chief Steve Crawford reviewed preparations Sunday afternoon, expecting the wind to wreak havoc on trees and power lines.

"We're both kind of on the same page as far as what tomorrow is going to bring. Right now, the National Weather Service is telling us, as is Vermont Emergency Management, that our biggest concern is going to be the wind," Doucette said. "It's going to take down a lot of trees. I don't think there is any doubt. What we're asking, as the police chief and as the fire chief, we're asking that people stay home to the best of their ability."

The Southwestern Vermont Supervisory Union declared an early release for area school children today. The supervisory union's website was updated Sunday with necessary information for parents.

The Mount Anthony Union Finance Committee and Mount Anthony Union School Board meetings scheduled for today have been cancelled due to the storm. They have been rescheduled to Monday, Nov. 5.

Doucette said the wind is expected to pick up after school children are released. He urged the public to remain at home when the storm arrives.

"The high winds are going to come into the area, they are estimating, at about 2 p.m. (today). Once the high winds start, and we start losing trees, it's best that people stay home. We ask that people shelter in place. If you need assistance, certainly calling 911 or calling the Bennington Police Department for assistance, we're going to do our best to get to you," he said.

About three inches of rain is expected to fall between Monday and Tuesday. The rainfall amount is not expected to cause serious flooding, he said.

"We're not nearly as worried about the flooding as we were originally, but we still need to be prepared because if the storm shifts a little to the north the chance for a lot of water is greater," Doucette said.

Shumlin declared a state of emergency Sunday and warned of wind gusts between 60 and 80 mph. The emergency declaration will allow the state to tap into additional resources if needed, he said.

Shumlin also said the storm will not mimic Tropical Storm Irene, which caused widespread flooding. This storm, Shumlin said, will bring powerful wind.

"I want to stress - this is not another Irene," Shumlin said. "The main concern we have here is the wind. The wind will be strong enough to easily take down trees and power lines with them, so Vermonters should prepare for power outages over the next couple of days."

Local and state officials urged residents to make sure they have batteries for flashlights and drinking water because power will likely be lost. Anyone using a generator should carefully follow the manufacturer's directions. A generator should never be used inside. Crawford said flashlights should be used instead of candles to provide light.