MONTPELIER – Gov. Peter Shumlin said that while Vermont hopes for the best, the National Weather Service is predicting that Hurricane Irene will enter the state as a Tropical Storm on Sunday morning, moving into Southern Vermont first and spreading winds and heavier rainfall across the state throughout the afternoon.
The Governor said the state will open its Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury on Sunday at 7 a.m. and that center will stay open 24 hours a day for the duration of the storm response.
“Although the full extent of the storm is still unclear, what we do know is Vermont is expected to experience winds and at least several inches of rain that could produce flooding,” Gov. Shumlin said. “Being prepared is our best defense from whatever weather event this storm brings our way on Sunday.”
The Governor said Vermont State Parks will remain open throughout this weekend. However, Vermont’s Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation is urging campers to exercise all necessary caution, and to be conservative and safe when planning for their stay this weekend.
Park employees have been working to secure facilities and clean up any equipment or debris that could blow around in a storm to ensure the safety of those who wish to camp this weekend. Most parks are also have secure structures where campers can find shelter from the elements should wind and rain become a problem. Campers who wish to cancel their reservations for this weekend may do so and receive a full refund. (Media can contact Vermont State Parks Director Craig Whipple at 802-241-3663 for more information.)
Representatives from Vermont utilities, health care, Red Cross, municipalities, the NWS, Vermont Public Safety and Emergency Management, and other offices are meeting regularly via conference call to update preparatory measures.
The Governor highlighted several steps Vermonters should take to prepare, which can be found in VEM’s Emergency Preparedness Workbook at its web site at www.vemvt.com. Other preparedness tips, he said today, include:
• Constantly monitoring weather information from the National Weather Service (www.nws.gov/btv ), radio and TV broadcasts, print media, or Internet sources.
• Stock up on water, non-perishable food and other supplies to be able to shelter at homes for up to three days.
• Prepare for power outages by stockpiling flashlights and fresh batteries and a battery powered radio. If you have a generator, ensure that it is professionally installed and can be operated without causing a carbon monoxide hazard. Report outages to your electric utility. Be sure you have at least one phone that does not need electricity.
• If local officials order an evacuation, respond immediately. Plan your evacuation route ahead of time, one that brings you over high ground.
• Use text messaging to communicate with family and friends during a storm if possible, rather than cell phone calls. Texts use much less bandwidth than cell phone calls and messages are more likely to get through.
Media can help by passing along the safety messages above. Media inquiries over the weekend should be directed to Mark Bosma, VEM Public Information Officer, at 800-347-0488 or 802-839-6717, or Susan Allen at 802-279-8493.
Susan Allen, Special Assistant to the Governor