Still No Power? A Guide To Staying Safe During Extended Outages

Nov 2, 2017

When a storm blew through Vermont earlier this week, it knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses in all parts of the state. Utilities say that because these outages are so scattered, it has been a slow process to bring power back to homes. It could even be into the weekend before power is restored in some areas.

As of Thursday morning, utilities are reporting 8,000 customers still without power.

Erica Bornemann, director of Vermont Emergency Management, talked to VPR about what you should do at this point if you're still without power — or if you aren't affected, how you can help out those still in the dark.

Erica Bornemann says the long outages are difficult.

"For able bodied young people, they've got to be really feeling the wear of this, but this is really taxing on the elderly and those people with functional needs. We're really encouraging neighbors to check in on neighbors," Bornemann said. "Even if you don't know them very well, just check on your neighbors and see if they're all right."

She says that people should not hesitate to go to one of the shelters that are available in Milton, Barre and Middlebury or one of the National Guard armories that are open as day shelters. The shelters will have coffee, potentially a shower, but definitely heat and electricity to charge up any devices and get warm.

"We really want people to know that shelters are not an all or nothing deal. You don't have to spend the night. If you want to go and just get a hot shower, just have some down time, some place to warm up, it's a good place to go." She says the shelters are not run by strangers, they are friends and neighbors who want to help out.

Bornemann says the biggest concern is people getting "creative" with heat sources and the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning or fire.

"We really want people to know that shelters are not an all or nothing deal. You don't have to spend the night. If you want to go and just get a hot shower, just have some down time, some place to warm up, it's a good place to go." - Erica Bornemann, Vermont Emergency Management Director

"Folks may resort to using generators or heating sources that they're not used to using, maybe they're on loan from somebody else. Those things really need to properly hooked up or properly vented or you'll be dealing with some serious carbon monoxide issues." She says emergency officials have already dealt with some of those problems.

Bornemann said power outages do happen in Vermont, and they can be especially dangerous in winter, and people should have a plan for how to stay safe, including a supply of water and non-perishable food, as well as a plan for an alternate place to stay. For people with functional or medical needs that require power, they should alert their utility.

Many utilities offer a text service that will provide updates on power restoration, and customers should sign up to receive them. 211, a referral service, is available to help with many other needs.

Resources

Green Mountain Power says that they expect all customers to be back online by Saturday, but most will be back on by Friday night.  On Wednesday, the utility released an estimated timeframe for restoration:

  • Colchester area: Thursday noon
  • Middlebury area: Friday night
  • Montpelier area: Thursday night
  • Poultney area: Thursday noon
  • Royalton area: Friday night
  • Rutland area: Thursday night
  • Springfield area: Thursday night
  • St. Albans and Milton area: Friday night
  • Vergennes area: Friday night
  • Westminster area: Thursday night
  • White River Junction area: Thursday night

Vermont Emergency Management says three shelters are open:

  • Milton Elementary School, 42 Herrick Avenue, Milton – Opened on Oct. 31 (The Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team will care for pets of those who stay at this shelter)
  • Barre City Elementary School, 50 Parkside Terrace, Barre – Opened at 8 p.m. on Nov. 1
  • Middlebury Recreation Center, 154 Creek Road, Middlebury – Opened at 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 (The Addison County Humane Society will help care for pets of those who stay at this shelter.)

For other shelters that may be available, call 211 for those locations and for any other needs.

Listen to the full conversation with Bornemann above.