Tuesday October 30, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- With the memories of Tropical Storm Irene still fresh in the minds of the state’s residents, people across Windham County did what they could to prepare for Hurricane Sandy which began to bear down on Vermont Monday night.

Brattleboro opened its Emergency Operations Center at around 1 p.m. Monday in anticipation of what Town Manager Barbara Sondag said could be a long period of time.

Sondag said meteorologists are predicting Hurricane Sandy to be a slow moving storm and Sondag has been working with all of the town department heads and staff to make sure the EOC is staffed for 48 to 72 hours.

At 2:30 p.m. Sondag said there were no reports of power outages in Brattleboro.

"We wanted to stay ahead of this storm because we think it is going to be a longer event," she said. "They are projecting the worst of it to be at 8 tonight and we are in a holding pattern now and we will be getting information out to people as we get it."

Throughout the day Monday the state was preparing for the historic storm.

Even before the first winds began to blow in Vermont officials were taking precautionary steps.

Many schools in Windham County were closed Monday.

With Windham Southeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Ron Stahley out of the country, Brattleboro Area Middle School Principal Ingrid Chrisco is responsible for deciding if it is necessary to close school.


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Chrisco made the decision to close school Monday on Sunday evening after receiving reports that the winds were expecting to pick up in the afternoon.

Chrisco did not want buses on the road and young students walking home during the storm so all WSESU schools were closed Monday.

On Monday afternoon Chrisco said she was going to watch the effects of the storm and decide what would happen Tuesday.

"It made sense to err on the side of caution, based on the information we had" she said about the decision to close school on Monday. "This appears to be a very significant storm and we’ll have to see what the impact will be. We could get power outages and roads and bridges could be affected. It’s hard to say what it will look like tomorrow."

Landmark College canceled all afternoon and evening classes.

Brattleboro closed its town offices at noon on Monday.

Town Clerk Annette Cappy, who will be running a presidential election in a week said she understood the move, even though it meant some extra work for her and her staff.

The deadline for registering to vote in the election is Oct. 31 and Cappy said if the office remains closed it could affect last minute registrants.

She said state law does allow people to ask a judge to allow them to register after the deadline.

The office has been busy with early voting, and with registering voters.

Cappy said the week leading up to a presidential election is among the busiest of the year.

And following last week’s special Town Meeting on the police-fire bond, and the possibility of a townwide vote if a petition is handed in, Cappy said things have been getting a little hectic in her office.

And like everyone else, Cappy said she was watching the storm’s track Monday as it headed toward Vermont.

"No one knows what this storm is going to be like and what it will do," she said. "The only thing we can do is play it by ear and take it day to day."

At the Latchis, general manager Gail Nunziata said the hotel is still trying to pay off more than $600,000 in lost business and other costs seen after the Whetstone Brook flooded during Tropical Storm Irene and inundated the basement.

The Latchis was closed for 46 days after Irene. Nunziata said that, since then, she gets nervous every time there’s a significant rainfall. She pointed out that the Latchis’ hundreds of windows, including big plate-glass windows in the lobby

Green Mountain Power was reporting sporadic outages in the afternoon in Whitingham, Halifax and Newfane, even before the high winds hit.

More than 250 line workers from Tennessee, Florida, Quebec and Ontario traveled to Vermont Monday to assist Green Mountain Power and the company said it was ready to respond to the storm.

"This storm should be taken very seriously by all Vermonters," GMP Spokesman Jeremy Baker said. "We have made extensive preparations and we’re ready to respond once the damage begins to unfold, but the damage could be substantial. We will restore power as quickly as we can safely do so."

As the effects of Hurricane Sandy linger Vermont Emergency Management is reminding residents that the state’s 211 telephone system is the best way to find information, as long as the phone lines and cell service are not affected by the storm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.