Wind knocks out power to thousands: Storm makes record impact on state

ADDISON COUNTY — Roughly one-third of Vermonters at least temporarily lost power due to the house-shaking, tree-felling windstorm late Sunday and early Monday as wind gusts around the county reached 80 mph, and winds topping 100 mph were reported on the state’s highest peaks.
The gale resulted in more outages across Vermont than any storm in history, including Tropical Storm Irene and the l998 ice storm, according to Green Mountain Power.
Many people had to bring out chainsaws to clean up their yards and in some cases clear impassable roads, while some schools closed or delayed classes for a day or two, and neighbors checked on neighbors.
Roughly 12,200 Addison County GMP customers were among the 115,000 Vermont homes and businesses that at least temporarily lost power, GMP spokespeople said. By Tuesday more than 500 power company line workers and tree trimmers were working to restore power. About 100 more joined them by Wednesday. Still, as of early Tuesday morning 5,300 GMP customers in Addison County still didn’t have electricity.
Across GMP’s large coverage area, the number without power was down to 8,620 on Wednesday morning — that included 3,140 county homes and businesses in Addison County, according to vtoutages.com. Residents can track outages at that site or at greenmountainpower.com/map/outages.
Two people who were without electricity came into the Monkton town offices on Tuesday and asked where they could take a shower. That got Town Clerk Sharon Gomez thinking about how the town could help. After talking with other town officials, she decided to open the firehouse for awhile on Wednesday to provide a small measure of comfort to those who just needed a shower. Anyone was welcome between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to come take a shower (bring your own towel, please), have a cup of coffee or chicken noodle soup, and play a kids’ game if you like.
“It’s not a big deal,” Gomez said on Wednesday morning as she opened up the firehouse and got it ready for visitors.
Wednesday, by the way, was Gomez’s day off.
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. It is just the latest in a string of extreme weather events that have struck Vermont this year (see story on Page 1A).
“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,” GMP spokesperson Dorothy Schnure said. “We will keep working 24-7, restoring power as safely and quickly as we can.”
Meanwhile, state officials reminded those using generators to supply power to their homes not to use them inside, including in garages, due to the dangers posed by carbon monoxide and fire.
A TREE LIES across one lane of Town Hill Road in New Haven Monday morning after high winds swept across the county. Road closures and power outages effected thousands county residents.Independent photo/Trent Campbell
GMP’s work to bring its customers back online is being complicated by the widespread nature of the problem: According to the Boston Globe on Wednesday morning, a half-million New England residents still lacked power from a storm that struck most of the region. That figure included 257,000 in Maine, 84,000 in New Hampshire and 71,000 in Massachusetts.
Although GMP spokespersons noted the help from Canada, Vermont utilities often get aid from utilities in other states in the region when disasters strike, but most of those companies’ crews were busy tending to their own customers.
Problems locally and in Vermont were widespread.
Many farmers were hard hit. The Agency of Agriculture said on Tuesday that more than 20 Vermont farms reported problems, including wind damage to greenhouses and hoop houses at vegetable farms. The agency expected to hear from more. Milk trucks were having difficulty getting to some dairy farms, some of which also lost power to milking machines. Sugarmakers were also reporting damage to trees, pipelines and sugar shacks.
For example, in Salisbury Blue Ledge Farm is using a propane-powered generator to cool its stock of cheese, but farm co-owner Hannah Sessions said that solution has its limitations: During milking, which can last a couple hours, the farm has to turn off the power to everything except 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.
Agency officials are urging farmers to document losses and note that the Vermont Farm Fund, a program of the Center for an Agricultural Economy, offers emergency loans to help farmers recover from natural disasters. The program currently has around $70,000 in available funding, with maximum interest-free loans of $10,000 payable over 24 months. Most loan requests are answered within two weeks, and information is available at vermontfarmfund.org.
County 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. Leicester and Whiting elementary schools: closed. The elementary school in Ripton, which was particularly hard hit, was closed on Monday and ran on generator power all day Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
Neshobe School in Brandon was without power on Monday but opened thanks to the school’s generator.
The other schools in the county opened after a two-hour delay.
On Tuesday, Starksboro’s Robinson Elementary School, Salisbury Community School and Leicester Central School all remained closed, but reopened Wednesday.
Most residents around Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake didn’t have power on Tuesday, but most on the northern two-thirds of Lake Dunmore were restored by Wednesday, while GMP is reporting power won’t be on for southern parts of the lake until late Friday.
A resident of the Jerusalem area of South Starksboro reported that it was “a mess” on Wednesday morning.
A TREE NEAR the Middlebury Recreation Center lies on the ground after falling in the high winds Sunday night into Monday morning. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
In Middlebury downed tree branches helped spark a fire at a Happy Valley Road home; see story.
Also, 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.
In Bristol the town office lacked phone and Internet service until it was restored early on Tuesday afternoon.  
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.
Lake Street in Salisbury remained closed at least through early Tuesday.
Salisbury and Leicester experienced a number of problems. Salisbury resident Mary Burchard — calling on an old-fashioned landline that still worked — reported she was making do without electricity on Tuesday morning. There was power in Salisbury village, but not at her home in the country. She was impressed by the force 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.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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