Home News and Features Power Outages Strike Over 25K Statewide – Washington County Hit Hard

Power Outages Strike Over 25K Statewide – Washington County Hit Hard

Washington Electric Co-op lineman Donnie Singleton carries part of a downed and de-energized power line, getting ready to splice it. Photo by John Lazenby during a previous power outage.
Washington County has been hit hard again by power outages this holiday season. “We’ve had over 50% of our membership out this morning,” Washington Electric Coop General Manager Louis Porter told The Bridge around noon on Nov. 27. The cause? Heavy wet snow and trees coming down and damaging equipment. 

The situation caused Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools to close Nov. 27 due to having no electricity at all the district’s schools, including Roxbury Village School, in addition to snowy road conditions.

Nearly each one of the 41 towns served by WEC has reported an outage, Porter said. Of the 10,556 total members, 6,332 were without power around noon, according to washingtonelectric.coop.  “We’re expecting this to be a multi-day outage for some members…we fully expect some members to be out through tomorrow, and possibly into Wednesday, Nov. 29.” By 4 p.m., Green Mountain Power reported just over 3,000 outages, WEC reported around 5,000 out, and statewide outages were reported in at around 14,000.

But what should people do if heat is a concern? Vermont Emergency Management Public Information Officer Mark Bosma said his department will be talking to utilities, getting an estimate for power restoration, and relaying information out on social media. Before they go into emergency mode, they need to hear from utilities to make sure that reaction is warranted, he said. But if anyone has any immediate concerns, then they should contact their town, Bosma said. The Bridge reached out to town offices in East Montpelier, Middlesex, and Calais – where there are widespread outages as of midday, but found none of these towns had set up warming shelters, yet. According to the town’s emergency coordinator Nick Emlen of Maple Corner, they lost power around 2:30 in the morning, but it was restored by around 12:30 p.m. He said he would be contacting people in other parts of town to see if there is a need.

Barre City City Manager Nicolas Storellicastro reported he is not talking about opening up the Aud for a warming shelter as they have done in the past because Green Mountain Power said they expected to have all their customers back on line by the end of the day, except for a few lingering outliers.  

“The update we got was positive,” Storellicastro said. “They restored 20,000 customers and they have 15,000 to go and they are not going to stop until everyone is back on.” Further, Storellicastro said Barre City doesn’t open up the Aud without being input from Vermont Emergency Management.  

“If we were seeing this as a longer issue, we would have been on the phone with them,” Storellicastro said. Barre Town had no plans for a warming shelter, either.

Back at East Montpelier’s Washington Electric Coop, Porter said six outside crews are en route from Riggs Distler to help out with the situation. Riggs Distler is an infrastructure company that builds and repairs the energy network in the U.S. and Canada, according to riggsdistler.com. Additionally, people are coming from New Hampshire Electric Coop, and also from crews based in Stowe and Enosburg. So power may be back on sooner than last year’s multi-day outage.

And for all the work people do to get power back up and running, Porter praised the line workers who leave their homes in the middle of the night – homes that may also be without power – to work in the cold, wet darkness to repair service. “They are a remarkable group of people,” he said. Porter said there will be more information as the day goes on.