Irene Fresh In Mind, Vermont Braces For Hurricane Sandy

10/25/12 12:16PM Kirk Carapezza and John Dillon

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Town and state officials meet to discuss Hurricane Sandy storm preparations in Bennington on Thursday morning.

With Tropical Storm Irene still fresh in mind, a lot of people are paying attention as Hurricane Sandy moves from the Carribbean.

More than a year after Irene devastated the state, town and state officials from Bennington to Bethel are getting questions from residents worried about the storm.

Sue Minter directs the state's continuing response to Irene. She says the latest storm has state officials concerned.

"We take this storm very seriously. Vermont Emergency Management is getting regular updates. Vermont Agency of Transportation: regular updates, and I receive both of those," she says. "The state government is taking this seriously and is beginning to make preparations. We have a meeting of executive leaders from the key agencies later this afternoon to think about what precautions or what steps we need to be taking now."  

In Northfield, a town hit hard by Irene, local emergency managers are setting up a command center at the fire station.

They say they're ready to bring everything they've learned from Irene to responding to this storm, which is expected to peak early next week over the Northeast and could produce $1 billion in damage.

Meanwhile, as forecasters continue to ponder the path of Hurricane Sandy and whether it will hit the Northeast, utilities are preparing for the possibility of power outages. 

The state's largest utility, Green Mountain Power says it has 142 of its own line workers available.

It's also secured more than 200 workers with private contractors from as far away as Ontario and Pennsylvania to help restore power, if necessary. 

Out of state utilities could provide additional assistance. 

Jeremy Baker of Green Mountain Power says the company has been gearing up for the storm since Monday and is communicating with town and state officials, businesses and organizations like the Red Cross.  

Baker says one of the key lessons that emerged from Tropical Storm Irene is the need to work  closely with the Agency of Transportation.

"We learned during Irene that we needed to have a great relationship and good connection to the AOT for travel purposes and they also needed to know where they needed to focus their efforts in order for us to be able to access our facilities to restore power," Baker says. "That certainly has helped and is something we are focusing on more now."

Other utilities are making similar plans in case the storm hits.  Washington Electric Cooperative serves about 10,000 customers. 

The utility has alerted crews and put tree trimming contractors on notice. 

Co-op officials say in the event of widespread outages they rely on help from crews from local utilities in Hardwick, Stowe and other communities, rather than contracting with out of state crews. 

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