Rugged Conditions Challenge Crews in Vt. Power Restoration

Thousands of Vermont homes and businesses are still without electricity following a fierce wind storm

The lights are back on in 102,000 of the more than 118,000 Vermont homes and businesses that lost power in Monday’s wind storm, according to a late-afternoon update from electric utilities Tuesday.

However, the remaining restoration work is challenging in many places, because of rough terrain and broken poles.

"There’s no way we could get a bucket [truck] in here, with all the debris and the way the ground cover is," said Peter Rossi of the Vermont Electric Co-op, hiking with necn into a hard-to-access utility pole right-of-way in Williston.

Rossi said all the cross-arms on the stretch of poles he showed necn were snapped off, and some of the poles themselves broke, too.

Kristin Carlson of Green Mountain Power said roughly 100 power poles remained broken as of late Tuesday afternoon.

Carlson said despite 500 line crews working 24/7 to clear them, there are also still dangerous downed power lines out there that people must avoid.

Early Monday, wicked winds lashed the state, with blasts of 60 miles per hour and even more fierce gusts in some locations.

In video provided to necn by viewer Daria Bishop, you can see a unit atop a power pole shooting off a large flash of sparks during the wind storm, when it apparently failed.

Because power poles often run through heavily-wooded areas, in locations that are tough to access with large trucks, the work of line crews can be slow-going, Rossi noted. Additionally, he said many poles need individual attention by climbers to hoist new wires.

That is why Rossi warned that it could take until the end of the week—or possibly the weekend in isolated spots—to get everyone’s power back on.

"In some areas, you can go one pole and you have some twisted wires. You can go three more poles on the same line, and you have a leaning tree," Rossi said. "So it’s really hard to assess."

The Vermont Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security announced the American Red Cross will open a shelter in Milton Tuesday at the Milton Elementary School on Herrick Avenue. Anyone who may need shelter is urged to call 2-1-1 for assistance, the department said.

State emergency management officials also announced the Vermont National Guard will open some armories for people without power to charge cell phones, access running water and restrooms, and to warm up.

The armories opening their doors include facilities on Fairground Road in Bradford, Pearl Street in Enosburg Falls, Overlook Drive in Lyndonville, Farr Avenue in Morrisville, Fairfield Street in St. Albans, Ferris Street in Swanton, and Armory Lane in Westminster.

Those facilities will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Friday, emergency officials said.

Jim Nellis of Hinesburg was one of many people in his community still in the dark Tuesday.

"You understand pretty quickly how convenient electricity is when you don’t have it," Nellis said, noting he is staying patient and operating a generator for limited power needs. "There’s nothing you can do–the line crews are probably working 24 hours."

Down the road in Hinesburg, Jennifer Thompson’s daughter was watching a DVD in the car, with no working player in the house. They, too, were staying patient.

"We’re hanging in," Thompson told necn. "We know everyone’s working as hard as they can."

The Vermont Electric Co-op said more line crews are on their way from Illinois to help out, and while teams are making good progress, they won’t stop until the job is done.

The Vermont Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security issued the following safety reminders Tuesday:

• Never run a generator indoors, including the garage or any building attached to the home. Run generators away from the house and make sure exhaust is not coming in through windows and doors. Carbon monoxide from exhaust can be deadly.

• Never use a heating source unless it is intended for that purpose and venting outside.

• Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms work.

• Continue to check in with friends and neighbors, particularly those who are elderly or otherwise need assistance.

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