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Vermont, New Hampshire Go Code Red

  • While the power was out, Heidi Mays holds her 17-month-old son Darien outside the Shady Lawn Motel in Hartford on Monday night.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    While the power was out, Heidi Mays holds her 17-month-old son Darien outside the Shady Lawn Motel in Hartford on Monday night.

    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Timothy Keener puts bar and chain oil in his chainsaw yesterday while his wife, Dawn, looks on. Keener owns a towing and recovery company.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Timothy Keener puts bar and chain oil in his chainsaw yesterday while his wife, Dawn, looks on. Keener owns a towing and recovery company.

    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth student Kathryn Waycroft, of Washington, D.C., takes a break from an evening physics study group to make use of Hurricane Sandy's strong winds on the college green Monday. "It's the best day to fly a kite," Waycroft said. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Dartmouth student Kathryn Waycroft, of Washington, D.C., takes a break from an evening physics study group to make use of Hurricane Sandy's strong winds on the college green Monday. "It's the best day to fly a kite," Waycroft said.

    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • At a West Lebanon supermarket on Monday, shoppers emptied shelves of drinking water while preparing for Hurricane Sandy.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    At a West Lebanon supermarket on Monday, shoppers emptied shelves of drinking water while preparing for Hurricane Sandy.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Delia Horn, of Lebanon, stocks up on water before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall Monday. "We're just doing things like making sure there's a pot of coffee in the fridge and doing laundry today incase the power goes out," she said.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Delia Horn, of Lebanon, stocks up on water before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall Monday. "We're just doing things like making sure there's a pot of coffee in the fridge and doing laundry today incase the power goes out," she said.

    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jack LeBrun, of Lebanon, takes down his bird feeders Monday while preparing for Hurricane Sandy. He also brought in his grill, garaged his truck and purchased water and a couple of bottles of wine.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Jack LeBrun, of Lebanon, takes down his bird feeders Monday while preparing for Hurricane Sandy. He also brought in his grill, garaged his truck and purchased water and a couple of bottles of wine.

    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Fred Perkins, Sr., takes down Halloween decorations at his wife's business in White River Junction on Monday. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Fred Perkins, Sr., takes down Halloween decorations at his wife's business in White River Junction on Monday.

    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  •  Small engine mechanic Richard Adams works to remove the carburetor from a broken generator at Welch’s True Value in South Royalton yesterday. Store manager Bob Gray said there had been many more storm-related sales this year than before Tropical Storm Irene. “People are much better prepared this time around,” he said.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Small engine mechanic Richard Adams works to remove the carburetor from a broken generator at Welch’s True Value in South Royalton yesterday. Store manager Bob Gray said there had been many more storm-related sales this year than before Tropical Storm Irene. “People are much better prepared this time around,” he said.

    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • A picked-over flashlight aisle is a sign of the impending storm a South Royalton hardware store on Monday. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    A picked-over flashlight aisle is a sign of the impending storm a South Royalton hardware store on Monday.

    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • While the power was out, Heidi Mays holds her 17-month-old son Darien outside the Shady Lawn Motel in Hartford on Monday night.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Timothy Keener puts bar and chain oil in his chainsaw yesterday while his wife, Dawn, looks on. Keener owns a towing and recovery company.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Dartmouth student Kathryn Waycroft, of Washington, D.C., takes a break from an evening physics study group to make use of Hurricane Sandy's strong winds on the college green Monday. "It's the best day to fly a kite," Waycroft said. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • At a West Lebanon supermarket on Monday, shoppers emptied shelves of drinking water while preparing for Hurricane Sandy.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Delia Horn, of Lebanon, stocks up on water before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall Monday. "We're just doing things like making sure there's a pot of coffee in the fridge and doing laundry today incase the power goes out," she said.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Jack LeBrun, of Lebanon, takes down his bird feeders Monday while preparing for Hurricane Sandy. He also brought in his grill, garaged his truck and purchased water and a couple of bottles of wine.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Fred Perkins, Sr., takes down Halloween decorations at his wife's business in White River Junction on Monday. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  •  Small engine mechanic Richard Adams works to remove the carburetor from a broken generator at Welch’s True Value in South Royalton yesterday. Store manager Bob Gray said there had been many more storm-related sales this year than before Tropical Storm Irene. “People are much better prepared this time around,” he said.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • A picked-over flashlight aisle is a sign of the impending storm a South Royalton hardware store on Monday. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

— Vermont and New Hampshire operated under states of emergency yesterday as government officials began responding to power outages and property damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy’s fierce winds, while trying to calm nervous residents with a simple message: This should not be another Irene.

By the time it arrived in the Upper Valley, Hurricane Sandy was expected to pack only a few inches of rain, but sustained winds expected to blow strong for eight hours and gust as high as 80 mph, downing limbs, trees and electrical lines and possibly leaving many residents without power for days.

The worst of the storm was expected to arrive in the Upper Valley sometime around 6 p.m. and batter the region until sunrise before weakening significantly this afternoon.

By 5 p.m. yesterday, more than 2,000 homes in the Upper Valley were without power. Weathersfield, Hartford, Springfield, Vt., Hartland and Enfield were among the towns suffering early outages.

Trees were reported down on Potato Road in Enfield, Route 14 in West Hartford and Jarvis Hill Road in Claremont yesterday afternoon.

Public Service of New Hampshire reported almost 65,000 customers without power, including 247 in New London, 46 in Grantham and 17 in Claremont by late afternoon.

Emergency responders who nervously monitored rivers and streams when Tropical Storm Irene arrived in August 2011 focused their attention this time to an invisible force of nature: Most windstorms that cause significant damage last for three of four hours, officials said — Sandy’s winds were expected to blow at least twice as long.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch placed 100 National Guard soldiers on active duty and another 100 on standby, urged all residents to be off the roads by 3 p.m., released non-essential state workers early, and asked private sector employers to follow suit.

The New Hampshire judicial system closed early yesterday.

“This will be a significant storm for New Hampshire, and we are urging all citizens to exercise common sense and extreme caution,” Lynch said.

In Vermont, where Gov. Peter Shumlin declared a state of emergency on Sunday, top government officials gathered at the Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury, Vt. — which has been fortified since it flooded during Irene — and coordinated with mayors and state lawmakers to plan for the unknown.

Every member of the Vermont State Police was placed on active or standby duty at 5 p.m., along with the Vermont National Guard, and officials prepared to open several standby shelters, including one at Hartford High School, if necessary.

Two swift-water rescue teams, including one belonging to the Hartford Fire Department, were activated.

“We need to be mindful that there is a great deal of anxiety in the state based upon our recent experiences with Irene,” Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said at a late morning news conference.

“And the best way we can respond to that anxiety level as a state is to be prepared, to be aware, to be mindful of what’s happening around us.

We believe that if we take those precautions, if we have the resources that we need, hopefully it will serve to reduce the anxiety level and will help our response in a meaningful way.” The winds in Vermont were expected to be the strongest in the Northeast Kingdom and the western spine of the Green Mountains — officials said Mt. Mansfield’s summit could see speeds of 100 mph.

Utilities in Vermont said they were confident that they would keep outages to a minimum if winds rose to 50 mph, Vermont emergency management officials said, but cautioned that anything more severe could cause significant problems.

Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest electric utility, had 250 line crews from other states and Canada ready to respond to power outages.

PSNH, the largest utility in the Granite State, requested an additional 550 line crews in addition to its own. Crews arrived yesterday from Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

On the surface, the parallels to Irene seemed ominous.

A hurricane crept up the East Coast, threatening major cities that were the focus of intense media coverage, only to keep going and barreling into northern New England while still intact.

Irene, after causing some damage in the South, gained strength by staying at sea at it crept north and then took a relatively direct route to the Upper Valley, by which time it had technically been downgraded to a tropical storm. By contrast, Sandy was expected to make landfall yesterday New Jersey and take a lengthy, strength-sapping detour through Pennsylvania and New York before arriving here.

“It’s certainly not going to be as bad as Irene,” National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Hawley said. “We’re not going to see anything like Irene. It’s just a different track, a different type of scenario.” The National Weather Service issued flood watches yesterday and today for Grafton, Sullivan, Orange and Windsor counties, and officials in both states said a few inches of rain was likely.

But water levels were a secondary concern.

Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos said his department had talked with “nervous” business owners and property managers along Route 12A, which was shut down for days after the Connnecticut River jumped its banks during Irene.

But forecasts showed the Connecticut River was likely to crest at 10 feet, Christopoulos said: During Irene, it crested at nearly 30 feet.

In Claremont, officials prepared to monitor the always-problematic Sugar River overnight, but said they were not overly alarmed.

“It sounds like everyone is out ahead of this,” Claremont Police Chief Alex Scott said. “So far, the reports indicate it shouldn’t be quite the same.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.