Towns prepare, but Sandy's no Irene

MANCHESTER - As Hurricane Sandy approached Southern Vermont earlier this week local towns prepared for the worst after lessons learned from last year's Irene.

To begin preparations the Town of Manchester relied on the town's Facebook page to inform locals of precautions to take before and during the storm. These precautions included a non-mandatory evacuation of residents of high risk areas such as mobile homes and other residential structures without strong foundations and structures in low lying areas near rivers due to the secondary risk of flooding.

Tricia Hayes, the public information officer, said that the biggest issue during the storm was keeping residents informed.

To combat the possible destruction caused by Sandy the Town of Manchester had in place an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that was fully staffed by Police, Fire and Rescue as well as the Department of Public Works, and Water and Sewer to respond to emergencies which was located at the town's Public Safety Facility.

Although the storm did not hit the Manchester area with the harsh weather conditions that were predicted, the EOC was still on alert and ready for anything to happen.

"We talked directly with the weather service in Albany several times during the evening and they kept assuring us, as best they could tell, that we were still in line to receive the grunt of the storm so it was foolish to leave," said Lee Krohn, Manchester's planning commissioner and zoning administrator. "We were there from 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. yesterday morning straight through to 11p.m. We had fire crews present on stand-by, we had rescue ready to roll, we had everybody in place to respond as needed," he said. "We were monitoring things throughout the entire day and night. According to town officials, the only incident that occurred during the storm was a downed wire on Spruce Street, which was handled quickly.

Manchester also received help from the State in the form of a 14-member Swift Water Technical Rescue Team based in Colchester to assist regional officials during Hurricane Sandy, which in the end did not have to be used.

The town also showcased three Humvees it received from the military, which also ended up not having to be used. They were originally scheduled to be picked up next week. The police department will receive one, the fire department will replace an older brush truck with one, and the third will be used for emergency and wildlife management.

According to John O'Keefe, Manchester's town manager, the Humvees came at no cost to the town and are currently on "permanent loan," which means they can only be used by the town. The vehicles can also be returned to the military at any time if the town so chooses and they cannot be resold.

Town Hall closed at 11 a.m. on Monday and made way for an emergency shelter open to the public. According to town officials, the shelter closed at 10 p.m. because the shelter had no takers.

"We owe a big thank you to everyone in the community that helped out with feeding the volunteers from the fire department," said Hayes, "and also the Colchester technical rescue team that was in place should we have needed them."

The Town of Dorset experienced much of the same, with the outcome being less than the weather forecast had predicted. The only problems were some minor flooding and a few downed trees.

"We were fortunate," said Rob Gaoitti, Dorset's town manager. "I think like some of the neighboring town's we had some more rain, but nothing that caused wide spread flooding. We did have some localized flooding along Route 7A by the Battenkill," adding some trees that came down along Dorset West Road, along with a few spot outages of electric power.

Dorset's preparations were made well in advance as Sandy approached.

"The fire house had been on stand-by during the storm," said Gaoitti. "We were in contact with the state police, we used there dispatch center. We were encouraging folks to report any kind of non-medical emergencies to the state police so the road crew could report for downed trees and stuff like that."

In all, Dorset experienced no more than 75 residents without power and Manchester no more than 40.


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