Wind rollicks region; residents remain powerless

A barn on Everest Road in Milton sustained serious damage from this week’s massive wind storm. Fire chief Don Turner said the barn has been in disrepair for many years, but the damage pictured above resulted from the storm. A Milton firefighter removed metal debris from the road early Monday morning. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Nearly a quarter of Georgia’s population was without power Tuesday morning, the second day of outages for some following a massive windstorm that rocked the state Sunday night and into Monday.

Hurricane force winds – including some gusts up to nearly 80 mph, according to Green Mountain Power – swept across Vermont, downing power lines and trees in their wake and causing widespread power outages in nearly every region. Milton and Georgia schools were closed Monday.

About a third of Vermont lost power, officials said, and the storm is one of the biggest in recent history. All told, 115,000 homes and businesses were affected, including Gov. Phil Scott’s, he disclosed in a press conference Monday afternoon.

This storm marks the first time Vermont’s statewide outage map at the Emergency Operations Center is “totally red,” Scott added. “It really is a statewide event.”

Colchester-based GMP reported more than 45,000 homes and businesses – 112,500 customers – in its service area were impacted by the storm as of 7 a.m. Monday morning, and a second round of winds picked up again later that day.

Sustained gusts caused new outages despite crews’ overnight work to restore power to 92,000 dwellings, GMP said.

Still, 23,000 homes and businesses remained powerless Tuesday morning, and “an army of more than 500 line workers, tree crews and field teams” continued 24/7 restoration efforts, GMP’s vice president of strategic and external affairs Kristin Carlson said.

GMP reported 1,440 Milton customers and over 1,000 Georgia customers remained without power Tuesday morning while Vermont Electric Co-op saw 137 Georgia outages and 69 in Milton. Those numbers gradually decreased throughout the day, but over 16,000 GMP customeres remained without power by 4 p.m.

The town of Milton estimated 1,600 households were without power Tuesday morning, public safety director Taylor Yeates said.

On Monday night, the Red Cross reported two Milton families – both on Lawnwood Drive – were displaced after trees fell through their homes. Disaster action teams met with displaced residents to assist with shelter, groceries and other immediate needs, a press release said.

State officials urged those needing help to call 211, especially the elderly or disabled, to help the state identify areas of greatest need. Plans for overnight Red Cross shelters were being finalized on Tuesday evening, and one at Milton Elementary School was set to open at 8 p.m.

Locally, impromptu help centers were also taking shape Tuesday at town facilities.

Georgia Fire Chief Keith Baker posted in the community Facebook group that the station would be open from 5 – 7:30 p.m. for trick-or-treating, and residents without power could use the station’s three private showers at that time. He said the department hoped to offer more times for shower use in the coming days.

Baker also said a hose outside the station could be used at any time for townspeople to fill water containers.

Miltonians could do the same at Milton Fire Station, officials said. The town also opened its own Emergency Operations Center to organize its ongoing response to the outages. Residents requesting other help, like welfare checks, can call that line to speak with a duty officer at 891-8010.

“We want people to make sure they swallow their pride and ask for help when they need it,” Gov. Scott said Monday. “As this goes further into the week and goes into multiple days, there could be more need.”

Indeed, utilities estimated some residents wouldn’t see power restored until the weekend, despite advanced preparation beginning last Thursday for potential widespread outages.

“It doesn’t really matter how prepared you are for a storm like this,” Vermont Emergency Management director Erica Bornemann said. “It means you have to do the hard work of getting the power back on.”

That work is made harder by the stunning scale of the storm, which rollicked the entire eastern seaboard, leaving New England states all clamoring for limited crews.

“From a labor standpoint, we’re just going to have to dredge on and get the work done,” Vermont Electric Co-op CEO Christine Hallquist said, adding the storm’s impact “really stretched the limit.”

“This is a multi-day outage. The breadth and scope so far is monumental, and the winds were at hurricane level,” Washington Electric Co-op general manager Patty Richards said. “It’s just going to take a significant amount of time and staff resources to get everybody back up and on line.”

Officials urged patience as well as caution, noting a wide range of potential safety hazards, particularly from downed power lines, trees and structures.

“The safety of the public is paramount – it is our greatest concern,” Bornemann said. “Please stay away from power lines. Treat every line like it’s live: Don’t go near it.”

Officials also reminded residents with generators to use them outside in open spaces, and ensure carbon monoxide and fire detectors work and have batteries. The state said there have been several reports of carbon monoxide inside homes, but no injuries or deaths resulting.

“Many Vermonters want to know what they can do to help, and to that end, you can check on your neighbors and make sure they’re OK,” Scott said.

The state Emergency Operations Center will remain fully staffed until the need is downgraded, Bornemann said.

Utilities’ initial response targeted “emergency situations,” GMP said, like live wires and downed poles that closed roads. Officials reminded residents to stay clear and call 911 in the case of a downed line. Reported conditions remained dangerous Tuesday.

The utility expected to provide town-estimated restoration times Tuesday night after the Independent’s press deadline and directed customers to its website, www.greenmountainpower.com, where they can view a live outage map and sign up for text service alerts.

“As always, this is a team Vermont effort,” GMP CEO Mary Powell said Monday afternoon. “We’re going to continue to work hard; we’ll be working through the night every single day and night until we get power fully restored to the Vermonters we serve.”


State braces for cleanup

By ABBY LEDOUX

While line crews work around the clock to restore power to thousands without it – some for the second day – state agencies are gearing up for the aftermath of one of the biggest storms in Vermont’s recent history.

Hurricane-force winds felled trees and power lines, and backyards were strewn with branches and debris.

A number of Chittenden Solid Waste District drop-off sites accept natural wood, the company said, providing one avenue for post-storm cleanup.

Locally, CSWD’s Milton, Essex, South Burlington and Richmond drop-off centers accept items at no charge for up to 3 cubic yards; after that, the cost is $10 per yard. The Williston site accepts up to 6 cubic yards for free and charges $5 per yard after the limit.

The preferred location for natural wood, though, is McNeil Wood & Yard Waste Depot in Burlington, CSWD said. There is no charge or quantity limit there, and the site will open specifically for post-storm cleanup from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Regular hours at the Intervale Rd. location are 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday through mid-November.

CSWD’s Milton site on Landfill Road off Route 7 is open 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

CSWD reminds customers to keep wood separate from leaves and yard debris, as they must be disposed in different locations even though they’re often accepted at the same facilities.

Cut trunks and branches down to size before loading if it exceeds the limit of 6 feet long and 24 inches in diameter. Also, ensure the load will fit: Each facility has its own space availability and limit on accepted wood.

Aside from backyards, Vermont farms were also damaged from the storm. By Tuesday afternoon, more than 20 farms in the state reported damage to the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

Agricultural structures like greenhouses, high tunnels, hoop barns and other mobile field shelters were also significantly damaged, the agency said.

The state predicts more reports are forthcoming as sugarmakers begin to survey woods and find damage to trees, pipelines and facilities.

Several dairy farms without power are using generators to continue their milking operations, the agency said.

The agency recommends farmers document damage caused by the heavy winds with photos and detailed records for state and federal officials’ assessment of the storm’s economic impact.

The Vermont Farm Fund also offers an emergency loan program for natural disaster recovery. Currently funded at around $70,000, the Center for an Agricultural Economy program will approve most emergency loan requests within 14 business days. The maximum loan amount is $10,000 with 0 percent interest, payable over 24 months.

To apply for a loan, visit vermontfarmfund.org. If you have a specific question or want to report farm damage, contact the agency at 828-2430 or email AGR.Helpdesk@vermont.gov. If you need shelter or immediate assistance, call 211; for a downed power line, call 911.

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