By Evan Johnson
Thousands of Vermonters remain without power this week after an aggressive windstorm Sunday night and Monday morning downed trees and powerlines, taking out electricity throughout the state.
“Power companies are making progress, but report that there are some customers who could be without power for multiple days,” said Gov. Phil Scott on Monday.
At a press event on Monday afternoon, Scott joined directors from the state’s three utility providers for an update on the state’s response.
Scott said early in the morning of Monday, Oct. 30, he activated the state emergency operations center. Scott said state agencies, the Vermont National Guard, Red Cross and others were working to assist communities.
Erica Borneman with the state’s Emergency Operations Center said Vermonters without power or in need of assistance should call 2-1-1.
“We need to hear from Vermonters who need shelter,” she said. “It helps us understand where we need to place the shelters so they’re close to the people that need them.”
While there have been no injures reported from the storm, Borneman and Scott both urged Vermonters to not move or touch downed power lines, respect road closures and to exercise caution when operating generators.
Representatives from Vermont’s three major electricity providers all said the event would last for multiple days.
Green Mountain Power said the storm impacted 115,000 homes and businesses, making it one of the biggest storms in recent history, with near hurricane force winds that toppled trees, branches and snapped poles.
Mary Powell, president and CEO of Green Mountain Power, said the utility had been preparing for the storm since Thursday, Oct. 26 and had more crews coming to assist from New York and Pennsylvania, but said repairs would still take time. Powell said this was the first time she’d seen such widespread outages throughout the state.
“It is a very time intensive effort with outages spread so broadly and deeply throughout the state of Vermont,” she said.
Christina Hallquist, CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative (VELCO), said the storm which other parts of New England, limited the amount of mutual assistance available to Vermont. VELCO said 14,000 customers were without power on Monday morning.
Washington Electric Co-Op’s Patricia Richards described the damage from the storm as “monumental,” with over 50 breaks in the lines in their coverage area.
Scott said the total damage done to utilities around the state is still being estimated, but would likely pass the $1 million mark needed to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
Scott also said power to hospitals and nursing homes was not affected.
As the Mountain Times went to press on Tuesday, Oct. 31, Green Mountain Power reported it had restored power to 92,000 Vermont homes and businesses. More than 500 crews were working to restore power to 23,000 homes and businesses.
Brandon reported 607 customers affected; Killington reported 42; Bridgewater reported 57; Chittenden reported 73; Rochester reported 400 customers without power. Notifications to customers said power would be restored by 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4.