Central Vermont Public Service received the electric industry's
highest honor for storm recovery today for its historic response
following Tropical Storm Irene.
CVPS was presented the Edison Electric Institute's 2011 Emergency
Recovery Award for its response to the September storm, which
washed away roads, bridges, homes and more than 450 utility poles
in CV's territory. Despite overwhelming challenges, including
73,000 customer outages and the isolation of 13 towns and thousands
of customers, CVPS restored all electrical service in just five
"Irene presented some of the most difficult challenges in our
history, but our employees reacted with poise and professionalism,"
President and CEO Larry Reilly said. "They put customers' needs
above all others and worked with extraordinary determination to
restore service quickly and safely, and demonstrated once again
their remarkable dedication."
"CVPS's preparation, planning and plan execution represent a model
of how a rural electric utility should handle major storm
situations," EEI President Thomas Kuhn said. "The company went to
extraordinary lengths to prepare for the storm, demonstrating
tremendous foresight and reaching out for mutual aid from as far
away as Kansas, Missouri and Texas, since East Coast utilities were
all preparing for the storm. That, combined with CVPS
employees' uncommon ingenuity and dedication to customers,
allowed the company to restore service quickly and safely, in many
cases well before customers were even accessible by road."
Entire CVPS systems disappeared in the flooding, with no hint of
where they previously existed. The storm also damaged
substations and hydroelectric plants, as record-high waters
inundated station houses, undermined substation foundations and
destroyed equipment. Phone and cellular service were also
interrupted, compounding the challenge of restoration and
communication with customers and state and local road and emergency
Given the destruction of hundreds of roads and bridges, CVPS
initially thought restoration of electricity would take weeks, but
officials decided early in the recovery that a lack of roads would
not stop the restoration efforts.
Employees were told to do whatever was necessary to safely restore
• Hiked, biked and used off-road motorcycles and
ATVs to access areas where roads disappeared.
• Hired a contractor to build a temporary road to
bypass massive washouts and allow immediate access to several
towns, including Mendon and Killington, after Route 4 was washed
away. Crews restored all power in Mendon and Killington in a day;
Route 4 took 18 days to repair.
• Installed a portable substation to restore
power to three isolated towns after the local substation in
Rochester was destroyed.
• Delivered hundreds of newspapers and flyers
with storm information to the town of Rochester, which was cut off
from all forms of outside contact for several days, when CVPS crews
became the first outsiders to get into town.
• Gained state regulators' approval to survey,
stake and build miles of entirely new lines in new places after
existing lines and the roads they abutted disappeared - within an
hour of making the case for the need.
• Captured dramatic aerial and ground images of
the devastation in areas most media outlets could not access, which
helped the media, state and local officials and customers
understand the severity of the damage early on.
• Created a direct link, with the assistance of
Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller, between CVPS recovery
planners and Agency of Transportation officials, which ensured
critical cooperation between utility workers, AOT crews, National
Guard staff and the Office of the Governor. This
significantly speeded restoration and road construction
• Maintained constant contact with the governor's
press secretary, the spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management and
news media to ensure regular, critical safety messages were
delivered - starting three days before the storm.
"The level of collaboration with state agencies and the cooperation
that blossomed was unprecedented," said Joe Kraus, senior vice
president for engineering, operations and customer service.
"In a situation that could have devolved to broad confusion, the
state agencies, towns and CVPS found ways to work together, which
allowed us to restore service much quicker than we initially
Kraus noted that this was the fourth time CVPS had won the EEI
Emergency Recovery Award, which he called a testament to the
company's employees. "Employees were single-minded in their
resolve to bring some small semblance of normalcy to our customers,
who in many cases faced devastating damage and losses," Kraus
said. "Employees' selflessness in the days just before and
after the storm were the critical ingredient in our quick and safe