Thousands are still without electricity in Vermont as people are recovering from the brutal winter storms that caused power outages all across the state last week. The utility companies are doing everything they can to fix the outages and their success is evidenced by the shrinking number of powerless households over the past few days. A little over 2,000 customers still report being without power, while this number hovered around 6,000 only yesterday.
The storm was at its worst last Tuesday and Wednesday, with parts of Vermont seeing snow accumulations of over a foot. Certain places like Orwell, a small town in Addison county, got almost twenty inches in the forty-eight hour period.
The type of snow that fell during those couple of days is just as important as the amount. Drier snow with less water content stacks up into light, fluffy piles, but the clouds that socked in most of the state were full of wet and heavy snow. This caked onto the power lines themselves, encasing them with up to eight inches of snow in certain places. Many trees could not bear the weight of all the wet snow, causing their limbs to snap and fall onto the power lines. Fallen trees also crashed down on roofs and blocked roads, creating even more problems for Vermont citizens.
At its peak, the massive power outage affected at least 100,000 customers. Utility companies went into emergency response mode and employees were sent into the field as soon as possible to begin the dangerous task of clearing power lines.
Green Mountain Power (GMP), the state’s largest utility company, is accustomed to dealing with these problems but they were still overwhelmed. GMP spokeswoman Kristin Carlson said that “this really ranks up there as one of the worst storms we’ve ever seen.” Due to the severity of the storm, it may be a while still until Vermont utility companies fully recover from the widespread power outages.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin teamed up with the head of the Vermont Electric Cooperative to survey the damage from a helicopter. What they saw confirmed that the aftermath of this recent storm was even worse than that of Hurricane Irene in 2011, which affected the entire Eastern seaboard and resulted in an estimated $15 billion in damages.
Those homes without a backup gas-powered generator were in the worst shape. Many people were forced to move in with friends or family temporarily. The Red Cross also reached out in order to help those who needed it most.
Utility companies reminded their customers to not attempt clearing or even going near the downed power lines, and that this hazardous work should be left to the professionals. There were over a thousand of these men and women working tirelessly in brutal conditions this past weekend.
Utility companies are still working to recover from the power outages that affect thousands of people in Vermont. All that their customers can do now is be patient and hope for some sunshine to start melting the snow and ice.
By Dac Collins
Photo by Ryan Van Etten – Flickr License