What a relief! Local towns barely affected by Sandy

Monday November 5, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- That was a close one.

Vermont communities still reeling from the effects of 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene prepared for the worst as Hurricane Sandy approached Monday, but they were spared the devastation unleashed in the Caribbean and other parts of the East Coast.

Officials from various towns said proper emergency preparations and an alternative path taken by the storm resulted in minimal damage.

Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn said the problem was a few trees that fell onto power lines around town. He said all departments did well bracing for an emergency and he praised all those involved.

"They all went above and beyond, adjusting their personal schedules so things would be taken care of," he told the Reformer. "They’ve all made a lot of sacrifices."

According to an e-mail from Brattleboro Town Manager Barbara Sondag, emergency services personnel from the town’s police, fire and public works departments responded to 12 calls for downed trees and power lines overnight. The incidents resulted in road closures on Orchard Street, Bonnyvale Road, Frost Place and, for a brief period, Route 9 near the Molly Stark Motel.

Power was interrupted to 551 customers at the height of the storm. Green Mountain Power reported that service has been restored to all but 32 customers as of noon on Tuesday. Crews will continue to work on the restoring power to these remaining customers, the e-mail stated.

All streets are open, no serious injuries were reported and the town did not experience flooding.

Town officials opened the Emergency Operations Center at 12:50 in the afternoon and it closed at 10:08 that night.

The town manager’s office also encouraged residents to register with the Brattleboro Emergency Notification System, by going to www.brattleboro.org.

Sondag wished to thank the townspeople for their efforts to prepare for the storm.

"I would like to thank the Brattleboro police, fire, and public works departments, and other emergency operations staff for their hard work in preplanning and emergency response during the event," she said in the e-mail "And finally, I would also like to thank Rescue Inc, Red Cross, VEM, CRT, WTSA, and the WSESU for their coordination and cooperation with Town staff prior to and during the event."

Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake said some power outages and fallen trees were the only effects Sandy had in his jurisdiction.

"We did not have any major incidents in the town of Rockingham," he said. "Everything was handled by the highway department very quickly."

He said the area is very fortunate the storm traveled further West than originally anticipated.

"I’m very happy to see it died so quickly," he said.

Highway Supervisor Mike Hindes said there were three blown-down trees, two of which were handled by the Bellows Falls Volunteer Fire Department because they fell on power wires.

He said his department has never, in the 20 years he’s been around, spent so much time clearing leaves from gutters and culverts to make sure water could drain efficiently during a storm.

"It was pretty uneventful in Rockingham. It doesn’t break my heart at all," he said. "It was a big relief. I can’t even tell you. ... We put in as much preparation as possible because people were saying it would be equal to or worse than Irene."

He said he was home by 11 p.m. and returned to work at 5 a.m. without receiving any phone calls throughout the night.

At the Guilford Volunteer Fire Department, a handful of officials spent Tuesday morning working out the kinks in an emergency-notification system rather than assessing storm damage.

Selectboard Chairman Dick Clark said there were reports of 17 residents who had lost power. Otherwise, Sandy did not cause many problems, and officials had closed their emergency operations center at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday before reopening it later in the morning.

"We had two trees down," Clark said. "We really didn’t have any washouts."

Clark added that the town’s emergency shelter at the nearby Guilford Community Church "wasn’t used at all."

Herb Meyer, Guilford’s emergency management director, called the run-up to Sandy "good practice" for town officials.

"We are very pleased that we aren’t busy," Meyer said.

Jill Collins, town administrator of Hinsdale, N.H., said her town was not affected much at all by the hurricane. She said Middle Oxbow Road is the only one she knows of that lost power. She was not sure on Tuesday if it had been restored.

The Vermont Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury advises all people to be safe when cleaning up after the hurricane. A press release stated that downed power lines should be handled only by trained professional and citizens need to make sure trees and limbs are not in contact with power lines when clearing them.

The VEOC stresses proper use of chain saws when dealing with debris -- such as never fueling a hot chain saw, and ensuring that the chain is sharp and the lubrication reservoir is full.

Driving or walking through floodwaters should also be avoided, according to the press release.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.

Reformer staffer Mike Faher contributed to this report.


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