DEERFIELD VALLEY- A little more than a year after Tropical Storm Irene hammered the valley, Hurricane Sandy is poised to strike the East Coast sometime next week. But while local officials are advising valley residents to be prepared, they’re also saying people shouldn’t be fearful about the storm. Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy says the outlook for Southern Vermont has been changing from hour to hour. “We don’t want people to panic, we want them to be concerned and aware,” he says. “Don’t get too nervous.”
At a 1:30 pm briefing by Vermont Emergency Management, National Weather Service Meteorologist Andy Nash said the threat of severe flooding appeared to be low. He predicted 1-2 inches of rainfall, with up to 3 inches falling in some areas.
At this time, NWS is predicting the storm will make landfall around the Delaware/New Jersey area, and the path will take it over Pennsylvania. That will put Vermont to the northeast of the storm, where the winds are at their highest. "The wind threat is the biggest thing," Nash said. "The flood threat is there, but I want to avoid comparisons with Hurricane Irene. This is not another Irene."
Also unlike Irene, it appears Vermont won't bear the brunt of the storm "This is going to be huge for New York City and the mid-Atlantic," Nash said. "They're going to take a big hit. We're going to get by pretty lucky, but it's going to give some people a lot of work in terms of wind damage."
If the storm track moves north, Vermont could be in for more rain, but Nash said it was unlikely the path of the storm will shift far enough north for severe flooding. "If it goes into southern New England, into Connecticut, there could be some flooding in Bennington and Windham counties, but it would have to really get into Massachusetts to put the state at risk for flooding. That seems extremely unlikely now."
At a local meeting today (Friday, October 26), Wilmington Fire Chief Ken March said wind damage and resulting power outages are likely to be the biggest problems valley residents face, but he indicated Wilmington was ready for whatever the storm may bring. "Right now trees are the biggest issue, and flying debris," he said. "It's going to last from Monday afternoon through Wednesday, so it's a long time."
Yesterday, Wilmington Selectboard members and first responders met to discuss preparations for a possible emergency. At that time, the National Weather Service outlook suggested Southern Vermont could be hit by heavy rain and damaging winds from the storm. “Yesterday they were pretty pessimistic,” says Murphy
Murphy says Wilmington is putting some of the lessons learned during Irene into their preparations for Hurricane Sandy. “We’ve moved some things out of the old Town Garage and we’re putting fire equipment up there at a higher elevation,” Murphy said. “We’re also putting some equipment on the other side of the (Route 9) bridge. We’ll have emergency managers on, The Deerfield Valley Health Center will be staffed, and we even have a couple of people who will be taking care of the psychological aspect.”
Murphy said the high school is on standby to act as an emergency shelter if the need arises, the Red Cross will be delivering cots and blankets today, and field sanitation is ready to go. “We’ve got water coming, and we even called Shaw’s Supermarket to make sure they’ll be open and have enough food. We’re trying to cover all the bases.” Much of the town’s most vulnerable infrastructure damaged during Tropical Storm Irene last year has been repaired, and Murphy says the repairs have left the town in a better situation to handle the rains that may come with the hurricane. “We’re in pretty good shape,” he said.
As of 10:40 EST today (Friday, October 26), Hurricane Sandy was moving away from the Bahamas, according to AccuWeather.com. Squalls connected to the storm are slated to reach the eastern Carolinas late tonight and early Saturday, with gusts near 50 MPH.
AccuWeather is predicting that Sandy will not be a typical hurricane or tropical storm. “It will not be a purely tropical system, with a core of powerful winds near the center, but rather more like a Nor'Easter, with strong winds over a larger area. Damaging winds will affect areas from Virginia up into New York and New England, leading to widespread power outages and property damage.”
Local storm updates will be available at the town of Wilmington's website, www.wilmingtonvermont.us.