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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Milton, Vt.) - Longtime park ranger Chuck Murray told New England Cable News he raced to evacuate the beach at the Sand Bar State Park in Milton, Vt. Wednesday evening, after seeing a powerful storm rolling over Lake Champlain.
"Had someone not warned them, it would've been disastrous," Murray said.
A falling tree crushed a picnic table, where Murray remembered seeing patrons eating just minutes before the pounding rain and wind toppled the maple. In another section of the park, winds that may have reached more than 60 miles per hour flipped a picnic table up so it reached the branches of a tree.
"These canoes are normally stacked up over there," Murray said, gesturing to a collection of canoes on the beach. "And the wind got ahold of them and blew these over. And blew that one right up on top of that barbecue grill; poked a hole in the bottom of it!"
In many communities in Vermont, chainsaws, wood chippers and other equipment roared Thursday. Homeowners, businesses and power companies were busy picking up the mess from fallen limbs. In downtown Burlington, Vt., localized flooding briefly turned city streets into small rivers Wednesday when heavy rainfall overwhelmed storm drains. That resulted in flooded basements and pavement damage in some neighborhoods.
Well over 10,000 power customers lost electricity Wednesday night, officials with area utilities said. Most were restored by midday Thursday.
This small state is not even one year removed from the worst natural disaster in Vermont's history. Compared to Tropical Storm Irene, the Independence Day wallop was minor.
But one of the lessons from Irene seems to have lingered, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt., noted. He took to the social media service Twitter to reflect, tweeting, "Stories of neighbors helping each other in [the Burlington] storms prove that we're still 'Vermont Strong.'"
Other Vermonters tweeted pictures of storm damage or information. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger tweeted information about power outages and how residents could report problems to city leaders.
Back at the Sand Bar State Park, staff was able to salvage a half day for a portion of the facility Thursday, but expected to be fully open Friday for what should be a busy end to the holiday week.
"It's very important to keep this park open," said summer employee Isaac Longley, a high school student from Milton. "It's a beautiful park. The breeze always blows off the lake, and a lot of people come to enjoy barbecues, swimming, and boating."
After lots of work, Longley and the other employees at the Sand Bar State Park know they'll be able to restore the popular destination's beauty. Ranger Chuck Murray has some requests, though, for the rest of the summer.
"No more storms and nice, warm weather," he chuckled.
For more information on the Vermont State Parks, visit this website.