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Thousands still powerless in Addison County after windstorm

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Posted on October 31, 2017 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



Tree9994.jpg
A DOWNED TREE blocks a lane of traffic on Town Hill Road in New Haven on Monday after Sunday night's windstorm. Independent photos/Trent Campbell

ADDISON COUNTY — As of early Tuesday morning 5,300 Green Mountain Power customers in Addison County remained without electricity following the house-shaking, tree-felling windstorm late Sunday and early on Monday. GMP spokespersons said the high winds caused more outages across Vermont than any in the company’s history.

GMP spokesperson Dorothy Schnure said on Tuesday that 12,200 Addison County customers were among the roughly one-third of Vermonters, per the Vermont State Emergency Operations Center, who at least temporarily lost power after wind gusts around the state reached 80 mph.

According to GMP, a strong low-pressure system that also pulled effects from Tropical Storm Philippe off the Atlantic triggered Sunday’s high winds and rain.

Vermont’s largest power company, GMP, said on Tuesday more than 500 crews, including help from Canada and elsewhere, are doing their best, but GMP is projecting it would be several days until all its county customers could turn on their lights and refrigerators again.

“We expect to make great progress today, but given the severity and extent of the damage, we estimate it will take until Friday evening to restore power to the last person in Addison County,” Schnure said in an email. “We will keep working 24-7, restoring power as safely and quickly as we can.”

Schnure said the storm caused, “more outages at any single time than we’ve ever seen,” and GMP spokesperson Kristin Carlson said in an email, “This storm impacted 115,000 homes and businesses, making it one of the biggest storms in recent history, with near hurricane force winds that toppled trees, branches and snapped poles.”

The storm is also posing problems for farmers. The Agency of Agriculture said the wind damaged many greenhouses and hoop houses at vegetable farms, while milk trucks were having difficulty getting to some dairy farms, some of which also lost power to milking machines.

One local agriculture operation dealing with the power outage is Blue Ledge Farm in Salisbury. That farm is using a propane-powered generator to cool its stock of cheese, but farm co-owner Hannah Sessions said that has limitations. During milking, which can last a couple hours, the farm has to turn off the power to everything except the milking equipment.

On Tuesday Sessions was looking for an emergency delivery of propane to keep operations going because GMP told Blue Ledge that they wouldn’t get power restored for five days.

“This is the worst I’ve seen,” Sessions said.

Schools were hit, too. On Monday the entire Addison Northeast Supervisory Union District, including Mount Abraham Union High School and its feeding elementary schools, was closed. As of Tuesday, Starksboro’s Robinson Elementary School remained closed, as was the Salisbury Community School.

Schools in the Addison Central and Rutland Northeast school districts delayed the opening of schools on Monday for two hours.

Salisbury resident Mary Burchard said she was making do without power on Tuesday morning — her telephone still worked (old-style land line, not a cordless one that requires power). There was power in Salisbury village, but not at her home in the country. She was impressed by the power of the storm, which she said cut out power all around Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake.

“It was quite a blow,” Burchard said. “When this thing’s over, I’m going to get a generator for the house.”

Per Agency of Transportation officials the storm forced five state highways to be closed statewide, while locally many residents reported that county roads, especially in rural, wooded areas, were at least temporarily blocked after the storm blew down trees and large branches. One local resident reported that Ripton neighbors banded together Monday morning to cut fallen trees from the Dugway Road as a caravan of vehicles worked its way out to main roads.

Nobody or nothing seemed to escape the storm’s impact. Middlebury Area Land Trust officials were looking for volunteer help to clear the Trail Around Middlebury: They sought information about larger branches and trees to direct crews, and asked for hikers to clear smaller debris themselves.

The status of power outages is being updated at vtoutages.com. State officials are recommending that customers without power contact their utilities to learn how long power will be out and plan accordingly. They also say that refrigerated food will not be safe if power has been out for more than four hours, but food in a full freezer will stay frozen for 48 hours and in a half-full freezer for 24 hours.

Officials also reminded those using generators not to use them inside, including in garages, due to the dangers posed by carbon monoxide and fire.

Those in need of a place to stay, a place to charge a phone, or a hot meal could call 2-1-1.

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