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Washington County Hardest Hit By Storm – Some Power Outages Could Last Until Dec. 27

Strong wind and horizontal rain ushered in downed trees that caused widespread power outages Dec. 23 through Christmas weekend. Photo by Carla Occaso.
Washington County has the most power outages in the state with thousands out of power as of 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 24. And the end may not be near. Some customers could be without power through Monday, Dec. 27, said Hillarie Scott, public information officer for Vermont Emergency Management by phone to The Bridge Dec. 24.

Scott pointed out that at this time there are about 27,000 people in the state without electricity (as of around 2 p.m. Dec. 24) compared to over 75,000 yesterday, Dec. 23, according to VTOutages.org. Scott pointed out that the outages were caused by downed trees due to the mix of weather from rain to wind to snow and wind. But the fact that so many customers have had power restored speaks to the hard work of the utility workers. “We have had amazing utility crews out there who have decreased the number (of people without power),” Scott said.

Scott also said the Emergency Management Operation Center opened on Dec. 23 to deal with the storm. It is “a central location where we assist with towns … to get them resources they need,” she said. The kind of assistance she is referring to is mostly informational rather than material, she clarified. There are primarily three different utility companies working to restore power: Washington Electric Cooperative, Green Mountain Power, and Vermont Electric Co-op.

Washington Electric Co-op services many of the towns surrounding Montpelier, and gives insight into what is making this storm so difficult to recover from. Crews are discovering that each break in the line they repair or tree across the lines they remove only reveals another issue farther along which must be corrected before the power can be restored,” states information on Washingtonelectric.coop. “That, combined with challenging weather in the form of wind and snow yesterday evening, has made progress slow.” Fortunately, the Burlington Electric Department has deployed crews to assist Washington Electric Coop. Washington Electric has a wide array of customers in East Montpelier, Middlesex, Worcester, Calais, Barre, Moretown, Orange, Williamstown, Duxbury, Randolph and more. The coop had 4,327 customers without power as of 1:27 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

A member of the Montpelier Police Department directs traffic during the storm on Dec. 23 when a lack of power caused there to be no traffic lights. Photo by Carla Occaso.
Hardest hit towns were Calais, East Montpelier, Marshfield, and Middlesex among others. Washington Electric Co-op warns the outages could last past Christmas Eve, stating, “This remains likely to be a multi-day outage event.”

Green Mountain Power had 13,827 customers without power as of 1:32 on Christmas Eve, according to their website greenmountainpower.com/outages. The state emergency management department started fielding calls from the office in Waterbury.

So what do you do if you are without power and without heat? Scott suggests going to the emergency management website at VEM.vermont.gov for the latest list of warming shelters.  For example, The Bridge readership has access to an overnight warming shelter that opened in the Barre Auditorium and is being run by the American Red Cross. People can come any time today (Dec. 24) or any time at night to seek shelter. The Aud has a capacity for 219 people. Additionally, Calais Elementary is open as an overnight warming shelter as well.