VPR News
9:49 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Update: New Outages Occur As Icing Problems Continue

VPR continues to update the power outage situation, with the latest information from utilities, the Red Cross and state agencies. 

Updated De. 30, 9:46 a.m.

Heavy, wet snow and rain that froze overnight caused a new round of outages going into Monday morning, with 3027 outages reported on vtoutages.com, a utility-run website that tracks problems across the state.

Updated Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m.

More Vermonters lost electricity Friday afternoon as tree branches weighed down by ice continued to fall onto power lines.

About 470 of the outages were in Green Mountain Power's service territory, according to a website that tracks the problems statewide:  http://www.vtoutages.com/

GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said the utility got all its customers back on-line Tuesday afternoon, but officials knew outages would re-occur because of the continued icing.

"As we expected, as some of the tree branches still  had ice on it [and] continued to fall and cause new outages. And in some places now the ice is melting and as it comes off the trees the branches pop back up and cause new outages," she said. "We're having outages, but it's to the extent that we're able to keep up with it with our own crews."

The problems are mainly concentrated in Franklin County, Schnure said.

Vermont Electric Cooperative also reported that 760 of its customers were without power Friday afternoon.

Updated Dec. 26, 5:00 p.m.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an assessment of the damage continuing from last weekend’s ice storm.

The state is trying to secure federal public assistance to help cover the cost of cleanup and recovery from the storm.

Officials said that freezing rain, snow, and near zero temperatures have impacted northern Vermont since Dec. 20. The storm created power outages affecting 22,000 households, or 75,000 Vermonters.

The state has asked FEMA for a damage assessment in Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, and Orleans Counties. Depending on final costs, Vermont could be eligible for federal assistance to cover some of the debris clearance and removal costs incurred by municipal and cooperative utilities. 

Vermont utilities say about 1,000 households remain without power. 

Updated Dec. 26, 11:35 a.m.

About 600 residents remain without power following the ice storm that hit the region last weekend.

The Vermont Electric Coop reported just under 500 customers without power early Thursday morning, with dozens of small outages scattered throughout its territory and significant line damage from Richford to Highgate. The company estimates all repairs will be made by late Thursday night.

The website VToutages.com also reports about 160 outages among customers of the Enosburg Falls Water and Light Department.

Meanwhile, Vermont State Police are urging drivers to be extremely careful on Interstate 89, where there is significant icing through Chittenden County.

Updated Dec. 25, 8:40 p.m.

Vermont Electric Cooperative says about 700 residents remain without electricity as utility crews were joined by state workers to clear lines downed by last weekend's ice storm.

The Johnson-based co-op says larger outages still exist in Franklin County. Areas with persisting outages due to extreme damage include: Richford, Montgomery, Berkshire, Enosburg, Fairfax, Fairfield, Sheldon, Bakersfield, Westford, and Belvidere and Cambridge in Lamoille County.

Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a statement released at 5 p.m. that a few households may remain without power into early next week., and people should prepare for outages over the next few days as ice unloads from trees. The governor noted that the state’s Forest, Parks and Recreation crews have been deployed to northern Vermont with chainsaws and other equipment to clear trees and limbs downed during the recent ice storm. He said utility crews from New York and New Hampshire have also joined the Vermont crews to speed power restoration.

Vermont State Police visited all shelters overnight and conducted welfare checks of vulnerable citizens. The Red Cross closed the shelters in Fairfax, Enosburg, Highgate and Newport due to lack of use, although equipment remains on scene to reopen on a moment’s notice if necessary.

“This has been a frustrating time for Vermont families who have been without power for several days, and I appreciate that lines crews from throughout our region have given up time with their own families to ensure the power is restored as quickly as possible,” the governor said in a statement. “We are focused and committed to ending these outages.”

Updated Dec. 25. 9:00 a.m.

Vermont Electric Cooperative CEO David Hallquist reports about 1,700 members are still without power from last weekend's ice storm, with the Richford area and northern Franklin County remaining stubborn pockets without service.

Hallquist tells VPR's Mitch Wertlieb that more outages are possible if the wind picks up and knocks more ice on to power lines. The co-op hopes to get everyone back on line by tomorrow night.

VEC is getting help from Green Mountain Power and contract line crews. The continuing cold weather makes the work difficult as linemen  are having to chip ice off equipment as they work around the clock. Feeding and housing the crews has also posed a logistical challenge, but local fire departments and hospitals have mobilized to feed the crews Christmas dinner.

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 24, 5:30 p.m.

The state’s largest utility has restored power to almost all of its 38,000 customers who lost electricity during the weekend ice storm.

Green Mountain Power reported earlier Tuesday afternoon, that every one of its customers was back on. But it said ice remaining on trees was expected to continue to cause sporadic outages over the next several days. And by late afternoon, about 200 customers had lost service, according the Outagevt website.

GMP says utility crews are standing ready to respond to any new outages through the holiday period.

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2:45 p.m.

About 4,700 Vermonters remained without power this afternoon. Most of them are members of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, whose service territory was the hardest hit by the storm.

The municipal utilities in Barton and Enosburg also had customers without service. Three hundred residents were without power this afternoon in Barton while another 400 were waiting for service to be restored in Enosburg.

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 24, 11:55 a.m.

The Red Cross has opened a fourth shelter in Fairfax in response to the continuing power outages from last weekend's ice storm.

Officials said that on Monday night two people stayed at the Red Cross shelter in Highgate Springs, seven in Enosburg Falls and one in Newport. The village of Barton is also operating a shelter with Red Cross support.

The Vermont Department of Emergency Management says people who use generators or alternative heat sources during the power outage should be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Officials said an Albany resident died Monday because a generator he was using was not vented properly. The Health Department has also reported numerous cases of illness caused by exposure to the odorless, colorless gas.

Meanwhile, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets  is advising farmers in the hard-hit area to be prepared to be without power for several days, and should have a back-up generator available with sufficient fuel. The agency says  dairy farmers may have to dispose of their milk if  milk trucks are unable to reach farms. In a news release, the agency also says:

•        The weight of ice on trees and branches may cause them to break off and fall onto buildings and equipment. Take steps in advance to mitigate the impact, if possible. 

•        Make sure that you have enough pet food, necessary medications, and other supplies. The Agency of Agriculture recommends having at least a week’s worth of stock on hand in order to be covered during prolonged power outages.

•        Bring your pet inside in advance of the storm or otherwise house the pet in a safe manner out of harm’s way.

•        If it is safe to do so, shovel the snow off of barn and house roofs.  If you cannot safely shovel your roof, contact a professional.  The weight of ice or rain added to the weight of the snow currently on roofs may exceed the capacity of the structure and lead to a roof collapse.

•        Farmers are urged to make preparations necessary to be self-sufficient for up to a week including having enough feed and water for livestock and moving them to a safe location if necessary.

•        Charge batteries on cell phones and cameras.  

Meanwhile, utility crews continued to make progress Tuesday in restoring service across northern Vermont. By mid-morning, about 5,400 residents remained without electricity. The Vermont Electric Cooperative territory remained the hardest hit, with 4,555 still without power.  

Co-op CEO David Hallquist said members who live in the most isolated areas risk facing the longest outages. He said the ice continues to be a danger to power lines across the region.

"We think we're heading for a very dangerous situation." - David Hallquist, Vermont Electric Cooperative CEO.

“We think we’re heading for a very dangerous situation, that we’re going to have power outages probably through Christmas," said Hallquist. "And the temperatures are going to be dropping below zero.”

Green Mountain Power says the sub-freezing temperatures have kept ice on the trees, causing more line failures even as crews work to restore electricity.

Dorothy Schnure is a GMP spokeswoman. She said the utility has been making steady headway to restore service but the weather remains a challenge. By Tuesday morning, just 216 customers were without service. 

Customers should report any outages to their utility provider. Those in remote areas should plan for multi-day outages.

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