Thousands still without power after storm
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | December 23,2012
The western part of Rutland County was slammed hard by Friday’s high winds. Above, trees toppled and took down utility lines along South Road in Castleton. At left, a crew from Burlington Electric repairs line damage in Leicester after coming south to help in the post-storm effort. Below, Thomas Ettori of Castleton shows a reindeer scene on Main Street that was toppled by the storm.
For Louise Cousineau, Friday’s windstorm was one of the scariest things she has ever seen or experienced.
The 61-year-old Castleton resident said when the wind started to pick up, she grabbed her dog and they sat in the bathroom to watch as the gusts of wind shook the trees outside her property on Route 30.
“All of a sudden it was like a domino effect, once the first tree uprooted the other ones followed,” Cousineau said Saturday. “You can’t understand how vulnerable you are because there is nothing you can do.”
When the storm passed, more than 18 trees at least 85 feet tall had fallen around her property — none hitting her home. Cousineau said someone was watching out for her.
“I hope I never see something like that again,” she said. “I think that my mom for watching out for me.”
The frightening incident was not isolated to Cousineau’s home, or to Castleton for that matter. The windstorm created gusts up to 70 mph that thrashed trees and utility poles across the western part of the state Friday, knocking out power to more than 34,000 customers.
Utility crews worked around the clock Friday night and into Saturday, slowly restoring power to homes and businesses.
More than 4,100 people still had no electricity as of late Saturday afternoon, according to Green Mountain Power. In Castleton, 1,037 customers were still without power as of 4:40 p.m. Saturday. In Brandon the number was 339 and in Wells it was 370, while in Salisbury it was 346.
Moving north, Middlebury still had 65 people blacked out and Starksboro had 290. GMP did not report significant outages remaining Saturday north of Addison County, while Vermont Electric Cooperative was reporting just 22 remaining issues, down from a peak of 9,000 on Friday.
“We have really incredible straight-line winds that took out trees and it was not just branches. It uprooted trees,” said GMP spokesman Jeremy Baker. “It blocked roads, making it slow to get to customers.”
“It took down poles without any trees around it,” he added. “When something like that happens, then you know it was strong wind.”
Baker said the utility company contracted 250 line workers to help restore power, but he said the hardest-hit areas — west of the Green Mountains — may not get power back until Christmas Day or later. The last customers to get their power back are usually those with isolated or individual problems, he said; the utility tackles the bigger blackouts first.
“It’s not something we want to tell people, but we want to be truthful,” Baker said.
The winter snow that fell Saturday did not help matters, as it slowed crews trying to get to remote locations. Once the crews were able to arrive at the affected sites, Baker said, the snow did not prevent them from restoring power to customers.
About 2 to 4 inches of snow was expected to fall in the southern part of the state before tapering off early this morning.
In response to the persisting power outages and falling temperatures, the American Red Cross opened a shelter at the Leahy Center at the Rutland Regional Medical Center around 5 p.m. Saturday.