Vermont issues high wind warnings

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MANCHESTER — High winds are expected to sweep through Southern Vermont between Sunday and Monday, with both Vermont Emergency Management (a branch of the Department of Public Safety) and Green Mountain Power (GMP) issuing warnings by Sunday afternoon.

Gusts up to 65-70 miles per hour are expected to begin late Sunday, resulting from a strong low pressure system which will be impacted from Tropical Storm Phillipe off the east coast, according to information released by GMP. The windstorm will hit the Southern portion of the state first, around 9 p.m. Sunday, with the strongest winds predicted after midnight statewide.

Green Mountain Power is preparing crews for downed trees and branches that may cause outages across the state, though GMP says that crews "may need to adjust their response in order to protect their own safety," if winds exceed 65 - 70 mph.

"This forecast for winds are comparable to a storm in 2012 which resulted in more than 48,000 customers losing power for up to three days," said Green Mountain Power spokesperson Dorothy Schnure. "In addition to our dedicated GMP crews who are prepared, we have arranged for additional contract crews to help us restore power as quickly and safely as possible once this storm strikes."

Both organizations also warn that winds could carry debris at dangerous speeds. Homeowners, renters, and business owners are encouraged to remove or secure anything from outdoor areas that could be blown around in high winds and create a hazard.

"This is a fast-moving storm and will be one of the most significant wind events we have seen in recent years," said Roger Hill, of Weathering Heights Forecasting and Data Service. "The forecast is for a down sloping event with winds that will be fast moving. I have been updating all utilities to prepare there could be outages from this strong wind event."

As the storm could also bring rainfall up to three inches, GMP has prepared for rising water by drawing down ponds behind hydro facilities.

The organization also issued a safety warning urging Vermonters to fully charge their mobile phones and keep necessities like a battery-powered flashlight, a portable radio, extra batteries, and bottled water on hand.

Individuals should stay away from all downed power lines, and keep freezers and refrigerators closed as much as possible to prevent food spoilage. If power goes out, GMP recommends turning off all electrical appliances except for one light so you'll know when service returns. Then, turn equipment back on slowly. Never use grills inside garages, sheds or other buildings, as the fumes can be poisonous.

If using a generator, read and follow the owner's manual before starting it, says GMP. Never operate a generator inside any structure or near a structure. Use a transfer switch to ensure electricity is not accidentally fed onto a line where crews must work.

Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) also urges individuals to respect detours on the roads, and never drive over a downed power line. As driving in high winds can be hazardous, avoid driving when winds are highest (Sunday night into Monday morning) if possible. If you must drive, keep both hands on the wheel, expect gusts, and be mindful of both flying debris and debris on the road, says VEM.

Vermonters are also urged to ensure that their homes have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and to never leave candles unattended. If you have medical equipment that relies on electricity, or medication that must be refrigerated, plan for where you may go in the event of an outage. If you lose power and need shelter, call 2-1-1.

"Keeping the public safe while we restore power is our top priority," Schnure said. "We remind people to stay away from all downed lines or quickly moving water."

Reach Cherise Madigan at cmadigan@manchesterjournal.com, or by phone at 802-490-6471.

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