Gov. Peter Shumlin had a simple message for Vermonters Sunday afternoon: Sandy is serious, but it's not Irene.
Speaking at the Vermont Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury, Shumlin said that, unlike Tropical Storm Irene, which inundated the state with water, the greatest threat Hurricane Sandy poses to Vermont is wind.
"To those victims of Irene who are feeling so much anxiety right now, I want to be a reassuring voice," the governor said. "In Vermont, we do not expect the kind of flooding we saw in Irene. It isn't going to be that kind of weather event."
(Pictured from left to right: Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont Emergency Management Director Joe Flynn)
Shumlin said that, as a precautionary measure, he has declared a state of emergency in Vermont. Doing so will allow the governor to deploy the Vermont National Guard, if necessary, and could speed federal assistance.
"That does not mean I'm expecting the worst," he cautioned. "What it means is we're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best."
Shumlin characterized the coming storm as an "extremely strong north'easter," which could result in 10 to 12 hours of intense winds, at times reaching 60 to 80 miles per hour. He said Vermonters should expect blow-downs, sustained power outages and, in some areas, localized flooding.
"That's going to be our challenge in this storm: winds instead of rain," he said. "That doesn't mean we're not going to have water. We expect to have two to four inches of rain."
Current forecasts indicate the Northeast Kingdom and Rutland County could be hit hardest by heavy winds, Shumlin said. He compared the situation to the April 2007 storm that struck the Rutland region with devastating winds.
Speaking alongside the governor, Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said the state has readied its emergency response teams and is fully prepared to deal with Sandy's impact.
"We are ready to go," Flynn said.
"We have all of our teams ready to rock to deal with this storm as soon as the winds get high enough so that we're sustaining damage," Shumlin said. "I can tell you that if Irene taught us anything, it's be prepared for the worst and we are. Every single agency of state government is ready to roll."
The governor also highlighted the work the state's utility companies have done to prepare for Sandy's arrival. Green Mountain Power said in a press release earlier Sunday that it has secured 250 out-of-state line workers and tree trimmers, who will join 140 GMP line workers and 130 contract tree trimmers in restoring power.
"I got a call from one of our neighboring states a little annoyed that we'd gotten there before they did," the governor said, referring to Vermont utilities' success in lining up out-of-state help. "But we'll cooperate with them if they get hit harder than us."
With an election just nine days away, Shumlin urged Vermonters to put politics aside and put political lawn signs inside until Sandy passes.
"I am nonpartisan when it comes to storms. I try to be nonpartisan in other areas of my job," he said. "I am saying: take down all lawn signs. It's common sense not to have political lawn signs blowing around with 60 to 80 mile an hour winds on our highways. So please take down political lawn signs."