Storm Updates: Outages Drop As Crews Make Progress Restoring Power
After more than a foot of snow fell on parts of Vermont Tuesday and Wednesday, road crews and utilities are working around the clock to restore service across the state. Officials say the heavy, wet snow caused outages and road closures across much of the state.
Final Update 12/16/14 10:45 p.m.
Green Mountain Power has declared outage repairs complete, though the company and two others still have a combined total of less than 1,000 customers without power.
According to initial estimates, the storm caused millions of dollars of damage and put a strain on utilities and road crews with its two days of snowfall. See updates below for full coverage of the storm and its aftermath as events unfolded.
Update 12/15/14 4:01 p.m.
Vermont Agency of Transportation officials released some preliminary numbers relating to last week's storm Monday afternoon. The big one: $2.2 million. That's how much it had cost the agency to clean up from the storm as of 8 a.m. Monday morning.
Some other figures: VTrans says workers put down 12,600 tons of salt (that's more than 25 million pounds) and another 230,000 gallons of brine in an effort to keep roads from getting too slippery.
Incoming Transportation Secretary Sue Minter said drivers should stay alert, even though most of the snow has stopped.
“This was an intense and lengthy storm and it’s not over yet," Minter said in a release. "Travelers should drive with caution as precipitation and temperature changes continue to make slippery conditions in some areas.”
The defining figure of the storm remains the number of power outages, which has been over 1,000 - and sometimes in the tens of thousands - since last Tuesday when the storm began.
The number of outages reported by Green Mountain Power has gone up slighly today, from near 1,100 this morning to 1861 currently. Outage details are available at VToutages.org.
Update 12/15/14 11:21 a.m.
The state's top emergency management official has requested that assessors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) come to Vermont to work with utilities determining the total cost of damage from last week's storm.
Joe Flynn, the director of th Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said publicly-owned utilities may be eligible for reimbursement of up to 75 percent of storm-related costs. He said in a letter to a FEMA administrator that he believes the costs incurred by Washington Electric Co-op already exceed a cost threshold to trigger the assistance.
Assistance eligibility is determined by the total damage cost statewide ($1 million is required), and there are also cost thresholds for each county.
Gov. Peter Shumlin said he believes FEMA will agree that the damage meets the threshold for federal assistance.
Update 12/15/14 6:40 a.m.
As of this morning, there are about 1,700 utility customers still without power. And the situation remains serious, because some have been without power for nearly a week.
The highest number of outages are in Chittenden, Orange and Orleans counties.
Green Mountain Power says crews worked overnight and will continue the work into today. As of this morning, the utility had just a few hundred customers without power. Most of the damage is causing outages for just a handful of customers.
Vermont Electric Cooperative has about 1,000 customers still without power. Some of their members have been without power since late Tuesday night, especially in the hardest hit areas of Starksboro, Huntington, Hinesburg, Richmond, Williston, and Jericho. VEC hoped to have everyone back online yesterday, but snow melt caused more damage to lines. The utility's web site gives estimates of when work will be completed by town, with everyone expected to be online by Tuesday night.
Washington Electric Cooperative has just 450 outages left. They say much of the work needs to be done in off road locations using snow machines and track vehicles to get to lines, haul equipment, and transport materials to the sites. Due to the deep wet snow, conditions are extremely challenging and repairs are extremely labor intensive. They expect the smaller more remote outages will take until the end of the day Tuesday to bring on line.
A reminder that anyone in need of assistance should call 211.
Update: 12/14/14 8:40 a.m. As crews worked through Saturday, the number of power outages in the state was reduced to a little more than 6,000. That was down from 100,000 customers without service at the peak of the outages.
Green Mountain Power will continue its restoration. In a release, spokesperson Dorothy Schnure said crews made the progress they were hoping for on Saturday.
"We have amassed more crews than ever before to take care of our customers after this historic storm that is incredibly still causing outages even today," said Schnure. "We’ve cut trees, replaced poles, restrung lines and restored more than 117,000 outages.”
"We have amassed more crews than ever before to take care of our customers after this historic storm that is incredibly still causing outages even today." - Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure
She added that any customers with damaged service wire must get an electrician to repair it before GMP can restore service.
Update: 12/13/14 8:25 a.m. More than 13,000 Vermont locations are still without electricity after heavy snow earlier this week.
About 7,200 of those are Green Mountain Power customers. GMP's Kristin Carlson says crews are hoping to make considerable progress today.
"This morning we are hitting it hard. We have about 1,000 tree crews and line workers who are spread across the state. Our hardest hit district are the Middlebury district, the Royalton district and the Rutland district," said Carlson. "We expect to make significant progress today in restoring people's power, but there could still be some in the hardest hit areas who could not be restored through the end of Sunday."
Vermont Electric Cooperative reports just over 3,600 outages. Spokeswoman Liz Gamache says crews are working on restoring power, but says the utility has experienced ongoing outages due to falling branches. "A lot will be dependent on what the weather does. As long as we keep seeing precipitation, it keeps making the branches heavier and heavier," said Gamache.
Gamache said restoration in areas of Richmond, Huntington, Hinesburg and Starksboro has been particularly challenging.
Washington Electric Cooperative is down to a little more than 1,700 outages from a storm high of 5,000.
Those in need of assistance can also call 211 to be connected with community resources.
Update 12/12/14 4:48 p.m. About 20,000 Vermonters were still without power, as of a 3:30 p.m. release from the office of Gov. Peter Shumlin. The Vermont Emergency Operations Center is open to assist with restoration efforts, community needs and emergency shelters.
Green Mountain Power says its restoration efforts will continue through the weekend and possibly into Monday. Currently 10,400 customers are still without power; the utility has repaired more than 112,000 outages thus far.
"We understand how challenging this is, especially for the elderly and those who have been without power for many days already," said GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure. "We urge Vermonters to take the necessary safety precautions and seek shelter if necessary."
Schnure provided the following estimates for when power in the following areas will be restored; these are worst-case scenarios and Schnure says most customers should be back online before these times:
- Middlebury area, Poultney, Royalton and Rutland: Sunday night, possibly into next week - Chittenden County, St. Albans, Montpelier: Saturday night -Springfield, Sunderland area, White River Junction: Midnight Friday night - Brattleboro, Wilmington: All outages restored
Meanwhile, Vermont Electric Co-Op says some of its 5,000 members still without power won't have their service restored until next week. The hardest hit areas include Starksboro, Hinesburg, Huntington, Richmond, Bolton, Jericho and Underhill.
The storm that began on Tuesday night caused more than 18,000 outages for VEC members; about 175 workers and contractors in the field have restored service to 15,000 customers, according to a release from the utility.
"This storm isn’t giving us any breaks,” said VEC’s Chief Executive Officer Dave Hallquist. "A crew restores an outage just to have another tree fall and take the line back down. We’ll continue working around the clock as conditions on the ground develop."
As of 3:30 p.m. on Friday, VEC outages remained in the following towns: Albany, Bakersfield, Bolton, Cambridge, Charleston, Craftsbury, Derby, Enosburg, Essex, Fairfax, Fairfield, Fletcher, Georgia, Hinesburg, Holland, Huntington, Isle La Motte, Jay, Jericho, Lowell, Montgomery, Morgan, Newport Town, Norton, Richford, Richmond, Sheffield, Shelburne, Sheldon, South Hero, St George, Starksboro, Swanton, Troy, Underhill, Westfield, Westford, Westmore, and Williston.
“Many Vermonters have a tendency to stay at home and wait something like this out,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a statement. “However, I encourage folks to seek a place to warm up and get a hot meal. The Red Cross is staffed and ready to deploy should shelters be needed.”
Shumlin and Vermont Electric Co-op CEO Dave Hallquist will inspect storm damage tomorrow via helicopter.
The Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is coordinating state response from State Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury with representatives from the Agency of Human Services, Department of Public Service, National Guard and Agency of Transportation.
A release from Shumlin’s office encourages Vermonters without power to remember the following safety measures:
- If using a generator, use it outdoors in a well-ventilated area, ensuring exhaust fumes are not entering the home. Carbon Monoxide (CO) exposure can be deadly. Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu and include nausea, dizziness, and others. If you suddenly feel sick leave your home and call for help. Every home should have a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector.
- Never use improvised heat sources as those not intended for the purpose could cause CO poisoning or increased risk of fire.
- The snow has piled up around many homes; ensure all heating vents are clear of snow and CO is not trapped inside the home.
- Most homes have cordless phones; those phones are no doubt losing charge. Have a corded phone that does not need a charge available to you so you can call for help if needed.
- If you see a downed power line do not touch it; treat every wire as if it holds a charge. If you are clearing trees and debris, ensure they are clear of power lines; those items can conduct electricity and electrocute you.
Update 12/12/14 11:40 a.m. Utilities are reporting that this week's storm is the worst in more than 10 years, with some power outages expected to last almost a full week.
The Washington Electric Co-op reports that with 3,700 customers out due to 117 separate problems, repairs may take until after the weekend for some customer. The co-op's outages are in Washington, Orange, Caledonia and Orleans counties.
Green Mountain Power officials said damage from this storm has surpassed that of 1998's ice storm that led to a federal disaster declaration due to the severe damage.
The company said new outages will continue to emerge until there's a break in the weather.
Wet, heavy snow clings to branches and power lines, and with each passing hour and day the likelihood of a tree breaking and a resulting outage increases. As quickly as crews can make repairs, new outages continue to occur. Until temperatures increase and the sun shines to help melt the snow, this pattern will continue.
Update 12/12/14 10:53 a.m. As some Vermonters spend their fourth day without power, Vermont officials are concerned about problems that may emerge for those who do not have working heat and have limited ability to reach services in their community.
Mark Bosma, the public information officer for the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said preparation is very important for extended power outages, as there often aren’t many resources available once the power goes out to fix problems that emerge.
“Our number one concern right now is the safety of people who are without power and have been for an extended period,” Bosma said. “This time of year, one of the major concerns is people just staying warm.”
For those without a woodstove to keep warm, or some other traditional heating system that works without electricity, there are very few options, Bosma said.
"We like to remind people that when you use a generator, it has to be used outside and it has to be well-ventilated outside." -Mark Bosma, Vermont Department of Emergency Management
“A number of people have generators, and we like to remind people that when you use a generator, it has to be used outside and it has to be well-ventilated outside,” he said. “You can’t have exhaust going back into the house.”
For the same reason, Bosma said, people without a generator or traditional means of heating their home during an outage should not try to improvise. The fumes from other, “non-traditional” or “jury-rigged” heat sources can cause serious harm. Bosma said carbon monoxide, which isn’t detectable by sight or smell, has led to deaths in the past when people used poorly-ventilated generators or unproven heating methods.
Bosma said Vermonters without access to proper heat should call their town offices, call the Red Cross or dial 211 to be connected to a number of community resources. He said some people have stayed in shelters or been put up in hotels during this outage while crews work to restore power to their homes.
In the future, Bosma said, it’s important to have a “preparedness kit” at home, which should include a few days’ supply of water, canned food, a battery-powered radio, flashlights, and plenty of extra batteries.
He said some Vermonters have called in to report that they have cordless phones they’ve been unable to charge during the outage. Bosma said it’s a good idea to have an old-fashioned, corded phone handy for such cases, as those usually work without an external power source.
Update 12/12/14 10:02 a.m. There are still more than 15,000 Vermont locations without power this morning. Many of those without power have been without it since Tuesday night, when the first wave of this week's storm hit with heavy, wet snow.
Some roads still have difficult conditions, though Interstates 89 and 91 are both mostly clear. For updates on specific roadway issues, call 511, go to 511vt.com or follow the Agency of Transportation Twitter account @511VT.
Update 12/11/14 9:37 p.m. The number of outages statewide has fallen throughout the evening, though it remains above 20,000. The highest concentration of outages is in the southern half of the state, just north of Route 4, according to Green Mountain Power's outage website.
Update 12/11/14 4:27 p.m. Colchester Police say their FairPoint-provided phone lines are having problems receiving calls. The department advises anyone with a problem to call 264-5555 to contact Colchester Police directly or dial 911 in an emergency.
Colchester Police didn't indicate if the problems are weather related. FairPoint Communications had similar problems recently, when a statewide network for emergency services experienced an hours-long failure.
Update 12/11/14 2:30 p.m.
State and utility officials have been working since Tuesday to keep roads open and restore power and Internet outages caused by two days of intense snowfall and other issues.
On Wednesday night, the second and more intense wave of the storm hit Vermont and stretched state and private resources thin.
The Vermont Agency or Transportation (VTrans) had to send some tired plow drivers home as the second wave wore on, and the agency pulled out all the stops to keep plows running.
“We’re using people throughout the agency right now,” said Deputy Director of Maintenance and Operations Wayne Gammell. “We have people from traffic shop, our mechanics, our line-stripers … we have even engineers, managers that have CDLs [Commercial Drivers Licenses], they’re out in the trucks too, helping to keep the roads open.”
Mary Powell, the president and CEO of Green Mountain Power, said the company has more line crews working for this storm than any other event in recent memory.
“We do prepare for the worst, and then we found out we needed to get even more crews. We have more crews operating in the state of Vermont in this event than we did during Hurricane Irene,” she said.
Powell said as many as 200,000 Vermonters have been affected by this storm, and Green Mountain Power crews have restored power to the majority of people who have lost it, but Wednesday’s worse-than-expected snowfall made the work a losing battle.
“We are anticipating that we will have all of the Vermonters back on by the end of the weekend, but I will tell you this is a tough one because we are losing more customers every day than we gain,” she said. “To use today as an example, we started the day with about 15,000 different outages, which means probably about 30,000 affected. As they day went on, we lost another 10,000 outages. So in a day where we thought we were going to make a lot of ground, our crews have been dealing with, in many cases, restoring power that they just restored five hours ago or yesterday.”
Disclosure: Mary Powell sits on VPR's board of directors.
Update 12/11/14 1:55 p.m. The Middlebury municipal gym has reopened as an emergency shelter for area residents who still don't have power. The gym, at 94 Main Street in Middlebury, will be staffed by Red Cross workers.
Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) can provide rides to the gym until 5 p.m. Residents can reach ACTR at 802-388-1946. After 5 p.m., Middlebury Police can provide rides upon request. Call 802-388-3191 to reach the police department.
FairPoint Communications issued an update about widespread service outages in Vermont. The company says the outages were not, in fact, caused by weather.
We experienced a hardware issue during routine maintenance earlier this morning that caused an Internet outage for customers in Vermont and parts of New Hampshire. If your modem does not automatically re-boot, customers should be able to access the network by re-booting their modem.
Update 12/11/14 9:53 a.m. FairPoint Communications said in a statement that the company is "aware of an Internet outage affecting customers in Vermont and New Hampshire" and that the company is working as quickly as possible to make repairs.
The emergency shelter in Middlebury's municipal gym is closed as of this morning, according to city officials. One woman arrived last night, said Assistant Town Manager Beth Dow, but opted to stay at a nearby hotel that was offering discounts to people without power.
Green Mountain Power says that as of 9 a.m. Thursday, "crews have restored power to more than 70,000 customers" since outages began Tuesday afternoon. Currently, more than 25,000 Vermont locations are without power.
Company spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said "some of the repairs have required extensive efforts, including one outage in Londonderry that required six lineworkers to work 22 hours to repair. The crews faced broken poles, tangled wires and massive downed trees to make the repair, which restored power to 2,800 customers in the towns of Londonderry, Andover, Weston, Landgrove, Windham, Winhall and Peru."
Update 12/11/14 7:10 a.m.
Many Vermonters are still in the dark this morning, as the second part of a winter storm last night brought more wet heavy snow, downing power lines.
Total number of outages are holding steady at 22,000, and includes Green Mountain Power, Washington Electric Cooperative and Vermont Electric Cooperative customers. Green Mountain Power says they have 450 line workers out in the field, but service won’t be fully restored until Friday or Saturday.
Fairbanks Museum meteorologist Mark Breen said two feet of snow have fallen in the Adirondacks and some parts of eastern Vermont, over a foot in other areas.
Another one to three inches of snow is possible today.
Road crews are out this morning, but the Agency of Transportation says clean-up has been slow because trees and power lines are still coming down.
There are school closings today, but the information feed for VPR and other local media has gone down. Most schools send automated phone calls about school closings, but if not, please call your school or check their website before heading out.
Update 12/10/14 10:13 p.m. Power is still out at more than 20,000 locations across Vermont, according to the utility-run website VToutages.org.
Eight schools have canceled tomorrow's classes. For an updated list, see VPR's school closings page.
The National Weather service updated snowfall totals as of 10 p.m. Wednesday night. The map shows much of Vermont received more than six inches of snow during the past two days of storming.
Update 12/10/14 6:22 p.m. The Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) has canceled service on all routes except the Montpelier LINK commuter bus "until further notice," according to a release from CCTA.
Update 12/10/14 5:24 p.m. Authorities and Twitter users are reporting traffic problems in the Burlington area due to the increasing snowfall.
All LINK Express routes are delayed 30+ minutes.— GMT (@RideGMT) December 10, 2014
Update 12/10/14 4:04 p.m. The National Weather Service in Albany issued a storm warning through Wednesday night until 7 a.m. Thursday.
The NWS forecasts six to 12 inches of snow in southern Vermont, excluding eastern Windham county, falling at a rate of up to two inches per hour this evening and tapering off by morning.
The number of reported power outages on vtoutages.org has been falling throughout the day, but remains above 15,000.
Green Mountain Power officials have said they expect more outages as snowfall resumes Wednesday evening.
The Town of Bristol opted not to open a local emergency shelter tonight, according to Town Clerk Jen Myers.
"A good portion, at least, of the village of Bristol has gotten power back," she said. Town officials will be manning the phones for residents who need help until 8 p.m., Myers said. The phone number is 802-453-2410.
Myers said anyone in need of an overnight shelter should use the Middlebury municipal gym at 94 Main Street in Middlebury.
As noted below, those who need transportation to the gym may call Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) at 388-1946 until 5 p.m., and the Middlebury Police Department at 388-3191 after 5 p.m.
Update 12/10/14 2:33 p.m. The ferry that travels between Charlotte, Vermont and Essex, New York is closed for the rest of the day Wednesday.
The Lake Champlain Transportation Company informed customers that the Grand Isle crossing "will continue running throughout the night."
Update 12/10/14 2:21 p.m. Middlebury has opened an emergency shelter in its municipal gym on 94 Main Street. The Red Cross will staff the shelter, according to a release from the town.
Those who need transportation to the gym may call Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) at 388-1946 until 5 p.m., and the Middlebury Police Department at 388-3191 after 5 p.m.
Other activities scheduled in the gym will be canceled until power is restored.
Update 12/10/14 1:37 p.m. The Town of Bristol is still without power, and officials have a plan in place to open emergency shelters this afternoon, though they hope electricity will come on soon.
"If it's not, we have a plan ready to go," said Bristol Town Clerk Jen Myers.
The power has been out in Bristol, she said, "for some people, since 10:30 last night. For some people it just went out."
Bristol residents who may need a shelter are asked to call 802-453-2410 for assistance.
The City of Burlington has issued a parking ban for the second night in a row, covering Wednesday night. More information is available at the city's website here.
Interstate 89 is down to one southbound lane near the Waterbury exit due to a two-car accident, according to a tweet from @511VT.
Update 12/10/14 9:46 a.m. Green Mountain Power reports lineworkers have restored service to "more than 34,000 customers," though about 17,000 remain without electricity.
The company said a Wednesday storm is expected to cause more outages, and it could take until the weekend to restore power to all customers.
Even with an army of crews responding, the severe damage means that power restoration efforts will continue through Friday and Saturday, especially in the areas hardest hit, which includes Windsor and Rutland counties, which sustained the most damage. Today’s snow storm will likely extend the time needed to restore power, as new outages are expected.
Update 12/10/14 6:00 a.m.
This morning, utilities are still reporting about 21,000 power outages in Vermont. The highest numbers of outages are in the southern counties, but outages are widespread. There are reports of trees and power lines down.
The Agency of Transportation is reporting difficult driving conditions throughout the state.
We have conditions ranging from slush to pack to black in the space of a few miles. Be prepared for CHANGING conditions as you travel.— 511VT (@511VT) December 10, 2014
Crews are out on the roads, but driving is not recommended until those crews have more time to clean up the roads. A number of schools are closed this morning.
Update 9:05 p.m. Green Mountain Power is reporting more than 20,000 outages, and says it could take more than 24 hours to restore power to all customers.
Almost 50 schools will be canceled Wednesday. For more information about school closings, see VPR's school closings page.
Update 5:11 p.m. Green Mountain Power now reports 7,240 outages, and Jacksonville reports 683, according to vtoutages.org.
Waits River Valley School in Orange County will be closed Wednesday, the first reported school closing in Vermont.
Update 4:29 p.m. Green Mountain Power reports more than 2,000 customers are without power in Windham County.
Update 2:26 p.m. The City of Winooski has also issued a parking ban.
A number of accidents have been reported, both on highways and local roads.
Update 2:15 p.m. The City of Montpelier has issued a parking ban for Tuesday night.
During this ban parking is prohibited on City streets between the hours of 12 midnight and 7:00 am. Cars parked on City streets will be ticketed and towed.
The city's website has more information about where residents are allowed to park during the ban.
Update 2:07 p.m. A tractor trailer accident has stopped traffic on Interstate 91, officials report.
Tractor Trailer has Jack-knifed on I-91 around MM 13 in the northbound lane. Traffic is blocked. D2 on scene.— 511VT (@511VT) December 9, 2014
Update 12:16 p.m. As the storm begins to hit, a number of Vermont schools, including Harwood Union High School and the Burlington School District, have canceled after school activities.
Road conditions are likely to worsen throughout the storm. For tips on safely driving during a snow storm, see this interview with Vermont State Police Lt. Garry Scott from last winter.
Original post 9:52 a.m. A number of Vermont schools are closed Tuesday in anticipation of the heavy snowfall. For a complete list of school closings, check VPR's school closings page (Note: Any closings that appear on the page after 11 a.m. Tuesday are announcements of Wednesday closures).
Green Mountain Power announced Monday that the company is preparing for the storm with additional lineworkers in case there are outages as a result of the storm.
“In addition to 120 GMP lineworkers, we’ve already lined up at least 120 additional lineworkers and have access to another 160 if we need them,” said spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure in a statement.
For a list of outages compiled by Vermont utilities, check vtoutages.org.
The City of Burlington has issued a parking ban for Tuesday night, according to the city's Department of Public Works:
There is a Winter Parking Ban in effect for all of Burlington from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. with the exception of the Downtown zone in which parking is banned from midnight to 7:00 a.m. Please do not park in Municipal Parking Lots over night during the parking Bans. Parking is available in the Market Place Parking Garage and the Macy’s Parking Garage on the Lower decks only. Vehicles must be removed by 7:30 a.m. or they will be charged the full days rate.