By Tony Marquis, Standard Staff
With Hurricane Sandy on its way, area residents and businesses still exhausted from Tropical Storm Irene, are making preparations for another weather-related disaster.
The National Weather Service is asking people to prepare for a storm it predicts could do more damage to the East Coast than Tropical Storm Irene did 14 months ago. As of Saturday, Hurricane Sandy was projected to stay southwest of the New England area, bringing high winds and about 1-3 inches of rain to Vermont.
Towns are already setting disaster preparedness plans — though most just finalized plans a few months ago.
In Killington, work has already started. On Friday, the town surveyed culverts, fueled up town vehicles, updated a contact list, stocked up on emergency supplies and met with emergency personnel. Last year, Killington was cut off from other towns due to flooding around the mountain.
Steve Finer, who served as the town’s emergency manager during Irene, said he planned to perform his position again if it’s needed this week.
“I’m kind of going: I thought I gave this title up,” Finer said. “And I’m hoping this is all for naught. I don’t mind the preliminary, I just don’t want to have to live through a number of weeks like we did last time.”
Some towns, like Woodstock, are still in the process of updating disaster plans. On a yellow card that was handed out during the town’s Irene anniversary dinner Aug. 28, there was a website for people to register in the event of another disaster. That software isn’t ready yet, according to the town.
Woodstock Fire Chief Butch Sutherland was hopeful after hearing Saturday’s forecast for 25 mile per hour winds and a couple of inches of rain.
“It’s not going to be an Irene event,” Sutherland said. “But it definitely looks like its going to be high winds for us, and it’s going to be a long period of time.
“I think we’re just going to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
Sutherland plans to meet with Woodstock Town Manager Phil Swanson, the Woodstock Police Department and other emergency personnel early Monday morning to discuss what to do.
Last year, Tropical Storm Irene dumped 7.34 inches on the Woodstock area, but 5.45 inches had already fallen that month. So far, in October of this year, two inches of rain has been recorded.
Though Sandy isn’t likely to make landfall until sometime Tuesday, towns have alerted residents to be prepared.
In Plymouth, officials are asking people to get fuel for their generators, fill their prescriptions, and get enough water and food to support their families for at least three days. And if anyone needs special assistance, they’ve been asked to contact Al Poirier at 228-3308 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Woodstock’s highway supervisor will updating the town’s Twitter page with highway information and the town’s website, Townofwoodstock.org, will be updated as needed.
In Bridgewater, town officials and emergency personnel are meeting this weekend and the Bridgewater Village School will be available for emergency shelter.
In Hartford, the town has begun preparations and plans to update the its website with additional information.
Irene’s destruction is still visible in Quechee, where construction on the flood-damaged covered bridge finally began in July. At Simon Pearce, which was flooded by Irene, work was supposed to continue on the company’s hydroelectric turbine this week, but that work requires a low water level.
“We’re really pushing to get that done so we can say we’re 100 percent recovered,” said Ross Evans, marketing director.
A facilities manager spent the end of the week securing equipment in Simon Pearce’s basement, which was wiped out last year.
Many businesses affected by Irene are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward
John Hurley, owner of the White Cottage Snack Bar, who rebuilt the business at its same location in West Woodstock after Irene says he has a disaster preparedness plan, too.
“Same as last time,” Hurley said. “Pull the tables all inside, cross my fingers and hope for the best.”
By Tony Marquis, Standard Staff