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Gov. Shumlin, emergency officials urge Vermonters to watch weather reports

Gov. Shumlin, emergency officials urge Vermonters to watch weather reports
Use caution as warranted; forecasts warn of potential flooding
MONTPELIER - Gov. Peter Shumlin and Joe Flynn, head of the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, today urged Vermonters to keep an eye on weather reports in the coming days, and use special care if forecasts of heavy rainfall, high winds and flooding become reality.
"We certainly hope that the weather clears and water levels drop," the Governor said. But, he noted, many streams and rivers are saturated from several days of steady rain. The National Weather Service in Burlington is forecasting additional heavy rainfall - particularly overnight Thursday and into Friday -- that could result in flooding across the state.
"As we've learned from past experience, it's better to prepare for the worst, even as we hope for the best," Gov. Shumlin said.
The state is under a flood watch today, and the National Weather Service is forecasting heavy rainfall. Lake Champlain and other waterways are approaching flood stage, and the Governor said nearby homeowners and business owners should keep an eye on water levels. He said Vermonters should use common sense in traveling if the weather becomes more severe, avoiding water-covered roads, making sure to drive at safe speeds especially during downpours, and preparing for power outages by having water, food and other supplies on hand. Even if rain lessens Friday, rivers may not reach their crest until Saturday or later. Lake Champlain, already above 98 feet, may reach flood stage of 100 feet or above days later.
Gov. Shumlin requested a FEMA representative to be on hand Friday in the event of serious flooding, and the state is working with the Red Cross to ensure shelters are open if needed.
In addition, Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said the state's Emergency Operations Center will open tonight at 6:30 p.m., and remain in operation as needed, possibly through the upcoming weekend. That office is staffed by representatives from AOT, Public Safety, the Vermont National Guard, the Agencies of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Public Service, search and rescue, and others. Flynn said Vermonters who see emergency situations - roadway flooding, for example - should report those to local officials, including police, fire and emergency management officers, who will be in contact with the Emergency Operations Center.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation, which has been repairing washed-out and weather damaged roadways in several locations this week, has crews and equipment on standby to respond quickly if upcoming storms create further problems. The agency has chain saws fueled and ready to go, barriers/signs/cones prepared for use if needed, hand and power tools ready, as well as state message boards. In addition, southern districts are ready to move north with people and equipment when and if needed. Rail, airports and public transit systems are also preparing for potential weather-related problems.
The Agency of Agriculture is suggesting farmers stay alert and take precautions, such as charging generators, securing extra feed if needed, and moving animals and equipment to higher ground.
Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding on Wednesday advised state agency secretaries to stay connected and available in the coming days in the event a weather emergency is declared. Vermont utilities have been geared up for power outages throughout this week's storms, and remain ready to respond if additional outages are reported.