Second major storm of season wallops Addison County
MIDDLEBURY — After a pre-Thanksgiving storm brought heavy snowfall on the busiest travel day of the year, Addison County was again smacked by a two-day storm. This past Tuesday and Wednesday saw more than a foot of freezing rain and heavy snow fall on Vermont, knocking out power for thousands, impeding travel and prompting cancelation of schools for two or three days.
In Lincoln, where a Gerry Road resident recorded two feet of snow, Fire Chief Dan Ober said the arrival of real winter weather almost two weeks before the season pops up on the calendar was wearing residents down by Thursday afternoon.
“Some people are beginning to feel the effect of no power and no heat,” he said.
Forecasters from the National Weather Service office in South Burlington reported that Addison County again received the most snow of any county in the Green Mountain State. Most towns in Addison County received around 15 inches, including Bristol (19 inches), East Middlebury (16 inches) and Cornwall (16.5). The town of Orwell received the most accumulation with 19.5 inches.
The storm, which traveled from east to west, started around 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Precipitation alternated between rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain, depending on elevations. Over Tuesday afternoon, temperatures dropped as winds and snow increased. Overnight and into Wednesday morning, wind speeds were recorded in gusts of up to 30 miles per hour.
Afterschool activities were canceled in Addison County on Tuesday and schools were closed Wednesday.
On Wednesday evening, the town of Middlebury opened up the municipal gym for any residents who had lost power, or needed a place to stay for the night, and kept it open on Thursday night. Town administrative assistant Beth Dow on Thursday morning said that although no one ended up staying in the gym overnight, one woman did come in, but later went to the Middlebury Inn, which offered discount rates to snowbound travelers.
Inn General Manager Geoff Conrad said the hotel does not have a standard procedure for discounting rates during severe weather events, but instead handles discounts on a case-by-case basis. He said utility companies or community organizations will often book rooms for employees or residents in need in such situations.
“Our goal is twofold; both to sell rooms and also serve the community,” Conrad said.
Sgt. Eugene Duplissis of the Vermont State Police barracks in New Haven said troopers responded to eight traffic crashes involving property damage, and about 35 vehicles that slid off the road through the first 48 hours of the storm.
Duplissis said about 20 of those slide-offs happened on a steep section of Route 7 just south of Vergennes, between New Haven Road and Middle Brook Road. Around 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, three tractor-trailers became stuck in the southbound lane as they tried to ascend the hill. It took troopers and Vergennes police about three and a half hours to free the trucks. During that time, police alternated traffic in the northbound lane, resulting in significant delays as snow continued to fall. Fortunately, state police reported no injuries from any traffic accidents during the storm.
Vermont Transportation Department crews worked overtime to keep roughly 6,000 miles of roadways clear despite changing conditions and variable snow, sleet and freezing rain. VTrans deployed 250 primary plow trucks plus tow plows. All 25 reserve trucks were deployed in addition to graders and other specialized equipment. Road crews worked more than two days straight, from 4 a.m. Tuesday morning, before some of them got a break Thursday afternoon.
Tamara Boise of MiddState Towing in New Haven said the company towed about 60 vehicles during the storm.
LINEMEN WORK LAST Thursday along Route 116 in Bristol near where fallen trees brought down power lines in Wednesdy’s storm. More than 9,000 customers in the Addison County area lost power tue to the storm. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
The accumulated heavy, wet snow caused power outages due to ice and fallen trees.
“In my 23 years as a lineworker, I can’t remember such a tough snowstorm,” Chet Farrell, a long time chief lineworker at Green Mountain Power, said on Friday morning. “We’ve got wires down everywhere and after several days of snow, trees are still coming down.”
GMP reported 112,000 power outages as a result of the storm, making it the worst in recent history — worse in terms of loss of electricity than the ice storm of 1998 and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The company deployed more than 800 lineworkers and tree trimmers supported by hundreds of GMP staff working around the clock to make repairs.
As of late Friday morning around 14,000 Vermonters were still without power.
In the GMP district that includes Addison County and a northern part of Rutland County, the electric company received 9,500 reports of power outages. Brandon was particularly hard hit with around 2,000 customers without power. By mid-afternoon Thursday, Green Mountain Power was still reporting customers without power in every town in Addison County.
“The storm keeps going,” GMP spokeswoman Dotty Schnure said. “We keep getting battered.”
At GMP’s Walnut Street substation in Brandon two of the three circuits were down, which caused widespread loss of electricity in Brandon.
In the Hannaford supermarket in Brandon workers rushed to transfer the refrigerated food from store shelves to boxes, which were then transferred to waiting coolers and freezer trucks parked behind the store to prevent the food from spoiling. On Thursday Brandon Jiffy Mart cashier Susan Key had to ring up sales the old-fashioned way, using a written ledger and a calculator. All sales were cash, as no power meant no debit/credit card machines were operating, and no gas sales as the pumps couldn’t operate.
Downtown Bristol was hit with a power outage early Wednesday morning, which affected much of West Street and businesses on the south side of Main Street. Town Clerk Jen Myers said crews were able to restore power to most homes and businesses between 3 and 4 p.m. Wednesday, but some sporadic areas were without power as of Thursday afternoon.
Lincoln author Chris Bohjalian took to Facebook Thursday morning to note that he was in the dark for the second straight day. Fire Chief Ober said about three-quarters of the town lost power Wednesday afternoon. The fire department also responded to two carbon monoxide alarms Wednesday evening. The Red Cross opened the Lincoln Community School as a warming shelter to anyone without heat.
The two storms have put winter ahead of schedule. At this time last year, the National Weather Service had recorded seven total inches — three inches under average. This year, a total of 25 inches had been recorded as of Thursday afternoon.
Outages and cancelations aside, the winter storm gave a boost to some ski resorts in the area. While the Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton and Middlebury Snow Bowl in Hancock both received snow, neither could open due to lack of power. Killington Mountain Resort in Killington reported 28 inches over two days and Sugarbush Resort reported 20 inches. Mad River Glen in Warren reported a two-day total of 31 inches in some areas, pushing their opening day ahead to Friday, Dec. 12.
At the Lincoln General Store, manger Vaneasa Stearns saw the typical uptick in traffic Friday afternoon once people could dig themselves out.
“We’ve had lots of people coming into town,” she said. “They’re coming in for candles, water, coffee and advice.”
Editor’s note: Lee J. Kahrs of the Brandon Reporter contributed to this story.
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