Utilities prepare for superstorm

VERMONT – Local utility companies and those across the northeast and eastern seaboard are preparing for the behemoth storm predicted to hit with fury over the next few days. The Northeast Kingdom and other areas of Vermont are under a high wind warning beginning Monday afternoon and continuing into Tuesday morning. In Vermont, winds are predicted to gust up to 60 miles per hour, and up to 80 mph in the western slopes of the Green Mountains and at higher elevations, above 2,000 feet. Forecasters predict that Hurricane Sandy will head inland and combine with a Nor' easter to create an enormous storm referred to as Halloween’s “Frankenstorm,” The Perfect Storm, and the worse storm to hit the Northeast in 100 years.Liz Gamache, spokesperson for Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) said they’ve been preparing for about a week. VEC is in touch with many additional workers if needed. Some VEC workers are prepared to bring sleeping bags to VEC headquarters in order to be available until power is restored if an outage occurs. Line crew are ready and prepared for the worst, but they hope the storm will not be as bad as predicted, Gamache said.Gamache said the latest information she is hearing predicts more problems in southern Vermont but it is difficult to say exactly where a storm will hit the hardest. VEC workers will go where needed as utility companies work together and assist each other.“VEC employees and contractors are on alert and ready to mobilize as soon as needed," she said.During an outage, line crew safety is always the first priority followed by power restoration, Gamache said. The situation is dynamic and safety will be evaluated during the event.Gamache and all emergency management personnel warn to steer clear of downed lines and report downed lines to the utility company. Keep children and pets away from the lines as well, the warning states.Green Mountain Power (GMP), one of Vermont's largest utility companies, has been preparing for several days as well. GMP is bringing in more than 250 additional utility workers from other areas to help where needed.“In a massive effort to be well prepared for whatever damage Hurricane Sandy brings, we are preparing with tree and line crews on-call from six states and Ontario to assist us in power restoration efforts if needed,” said a GMP spokesperson. “GMP stands ready to fight Super Storm Sandy."Officials recommend having extra items on hand such as bottled water, nonperishable food, needed medications, a first aid kit, a battery power radio, and flashlights. They want people to be careful using generators and to follow the user manuals.Recommendations include: Do not operate a generator inside any structure or near a structure; use a transfer switch to ensure electricity is not accidentally fed onto a line where line crews must work; If power goes out, turn off all electrical appliances except one light so you’ll know when service returns, then, turn equipment back on slowly; never use grills inside garages, sheds or other buildings, as the fumes can be poisonous.Call VEC at 1-800-832-2667 to report outages or downed lines.Visit the VEC website (www.vermontelectric.coop) and click on outage center for updated information.