Green Mountain Power dispatcher Jeff Brosseau checks the status board in preparation for Hurricane Sandy on Monday in Colchester.
MONTPELIER — Winds up to 80 mph could be felt from southern Vermont through the Canadian border as the leading edge of Hurricane Sandy arrived in the state Monday evening and overnight. Downed trees and power lines along with power outages were reported by early evening although the warning period was through 3 a.m., state emergency management officials warned Monday.
While Sandy isn’t expected to dump the huge amounts of rain on the state that Tropical Storm Irene did last year, rainfall of 3 to 4 inches is possible, especially in southern Vermont, bringing with it the threat of localized flooding.
“Because Sandy will turn into what we call an extra-tropical system, kind of like a giant powerful Nor’easter, the wind field is going to be tremendous and you are going to see damaging winds all the way up to the Canadian border,” said Scott Whittier, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Burlington.
The winds began to pick up Monday afternoon. The peak was expected around 8 p.m. Monday and continue through 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. before diminishing. The western slopes of the Green Mountains were expecting to see gusts as high as 80 mph. The top of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s tallest peak, had expected gusts of 100 mph, said Whittier, who spoke at a news conference at Vermont Emergency Management headquarters in Waterbury.
The intensity of the winds was expected to be comparable to storms that hit the Rutland area in April 2007 and the Champlain Valley in December 2010. In most cases when Vermont is hit with winds that high, the duration is usually no more than four to six hours, Whittier said.
“We’re looking at a 12- to 16-hour window when the winds will be at least gusting to 40 miles an hour,” Whittier said.
Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said the operations center began 24-hour operations Monday morning and would remain open until the storm has passed, probably sometime Wednesday.
“As Gov. Shumlin said Sunday, we need to be mindful that there is a great deal of anxiety in the state based upon our recent experiences with Irene,” Flynn said at a late Monday morning news conference. “And the best way we can respond to that anxiety level as a state is to be prepared, to be aware, to be mindful of what’s happening around us. We believe that if we take those precautions, if we have the resources that we need, hopefully it will serve to reduce the anxiety level and will help our response in a meaningful way.”
Emergency workers, police, utility crews and the National Guard were all on standby to react as needed to the storm, officials said.
By late afternoon Monday, Vermont utilities were reported thousands of customers without power, most in the state’s four southern counties. Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s dominant electric utility, had 250 line crews from other states and Canada ready to respond to power outages.
“We expect things will get a lot worse before they get better,” GMP spokesman Jeremy Baker said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We’ve been picking up lines and restoring service pretty quickly as damage occurs this afternoon, but we still face a serious, dangerous storm this evening and through the overnight hours. We expect a lot more outages to occur, but we will repair service as quickly as it is safe to do so.”
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