Vermont Utilities Report Widespread Power Outages After Halloween Storm

Nov 1, 2019

Updated at 7:35 p.m.

Following Thursday night's heavy winds and rain, Vermont utilities are reporting widespread power outages. In some areas, power could be off for as many as five to six days.

As of 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, Green Mountain Power had restored power to more than 71,800 of its customers, and a little over 42,000 customers remained without power statewide.

Mari McClure, the incoming CEO of GMP, said the utility has brought 100 additional line workers into Vermont to help restore service.

Washington Electric Co-op general manager Patty Richards said Friday that it would be a "long and extensive repair."

"It's going to take many days to restore this," she said. "We're talking Wednesday, potentially into Thursday of next week."

Vermont Electric Cooperative also said in a statement Friday evening that it was likely some VEC customers would be without power until early next week. The utility urged people to check on neighbors, to not run any generators inside, and, if needed, to go to the two available shelters at the Newport Municipal Building and St. Albans Town Educational Center, which will open at 8 p.m. Friday.

Gov. Phil Scott said at a press conference Friday that emergency officials are still assessing damage from the storm before they decide whether Vermont should declare a disaster area and seek federal assistance.

Gov. Phil Scott studies the state power outage map with Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Chris Herrick, left, and Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn, right, during a press conference Friday about the aftermath from a Halloween storm.
Credit John Dillon / VPR File

Scott said he briefly returned home from work Friday, because he needed to bring his dog to the vet. The problem? A tree had fallen across his route, by Berlin Pond. So Vermont’s governor got a chainsaw and moved it himself.

“I think we’re all doing our part,” Scott said.

In talking to VPR's Bob Kinzel on Vermont Edition, Scott highlighted a few points regarding Vermonters' safety during the storm aftermath. The governor said downed power lines were a big concern, and he also urged that people not drive through flooded roadways.

“We just want you to be careful and be aware," Scott said. "We should get through this."

While the rain stopped by Friday morning, Vermont Emergency Management said some main stream rivers still hadn't crested.

Mike Utton, with the town of Worcester, said he was up at 4 a.m. to deal with the storm's effects.

"The road commissioner went out and checked and called us all in," Utton told VPR's Pete Hirschfeld at 9 a.m. Friday, at the town's gravel pile.

Utton noted a number of washouts and closures as a result of flooding in Worcester, and looked ahead to what was in store for the rest of the day:

"West Hill is our priority right now," Utton said, "and then we'll go around and check, see what's worse and go from there."

Most of Brattleboro lost power Friday after a substation caught fire around 10 a.m. Kristin Kelly of Green Mountain Power said a piece of equipment broke off due to high winds and caused the fire. Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi said those winds then fanned the flames.

Green Mountain Power workers restored power around 2 p.m.

Brattleboro's fire chief said it's unclear if a Friday morning fire at the substation was caused by the recent storm, though he said high winds definitely fanned the flames.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Here's some of what we have been seeing on social media today related to Vermont flooding

According to Burlington police and fire officials, Verizon Wireless service was not at full capacity Friday evening (though there was no indication whether this was storm related):

Local authorities warned residents not to drive through any standing water:

The 11 a.m. storm update sent by Vermont Emergency Management Friday said that the state's swiftwater rescue team, as well as other local teams, had responded to motorists and residents needing assistance.

Southern Vermont Technical Rescue had posted on Facebook that they were heading north Friday to help out in affected areas:

Green Mountain Power said more than 21,000 customers had lost power by Friday morning:

Vermont Emergency Management also included the following safety warning regarding power lines and power loss in its 11 a.m. update Friday: 

"Please never touch a downed power line, and when clearing debris ensure it is not touching a power line.

"Should you lose power, never use a generator indoors – only outside away from windows, doors, vents, or anything else through which carbon monoxide could enter the home."

Thursday's weather phenomena broke two records:

A number of roads were reported closed in Lamoille County Friday:

And farmers at the Intervale in Burlington are looking for help Friday to save their crops before the Winooski River jumped its banks: