0208 Montpelier Winter Weather Northern New England

Montpelier businessman Joe Sweeney brushes snow off a car Friday in Montpelier. The storm that packed snow and freezing rain forced some businesses, schools and government offices to close early across northern New England. Some parts of northern Vermont were expecting up to 2 feet of snow.

A two-part snowstorm blowing across Vermont this week led to some rare closures, tough travel conditions and thousands of people without power.

“It was basically two separate events, a quick burst of snow that we had Thursday morning, that was with a low pressure area,” said Seth Kutikoff, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Burlington. “We did have a period where there was moisture that was left behind that allowed for us to have precipitation in the form of sleet and freezing rain in between the two systems.”

Weather statewide ran the gamut from sleet and freezing rain to heavy snow, he said, with the snow mostly in the northern portion of Vermont with the southern end getting most of the rain and freezing rain.

He said Friday morning the storm was in New York and heading northeast. It was expected to be through the state and gone over the course of the evening.

Don’t put away the warm blankets, however.

“The storm is probably going to depart this evening, so the main story will be the bitter cold,” Kutikoff said. “Saturday will be one of the coldest days this winter for sure. We’ll have temperatures in the single digits. The temperature will peak in the mid-teens and will plummet overnight, so it’ll be very cold Sunday morning.”

Green Mountain Power, the state’s largest electric utility, announced at approximately 5:30 p.m. that it had spent Friday restoring power to 15,800 customers, with 9,550 left without, and more outages expected due to gusty winds throughout the night.

“We’ve been tracking this storm for days and have been communicating with multiple forecasters to be prepared to respond quickly and safely for customers. Dangerous road conditions are making travel slow for anyone on the road, including our crews,” said Mike Burke, leader of GMP field operations, in a statement released by the utility. “Damage unfortunately from ice and snow loading is greater than forecasted, and crews will be working through the night to help customers.”

The company warned that outages may last longer than usual, given that the storm has made travel difficult. GMP outages can be reported by calling 888-835-4672. The company urged people to stay away from downed lines, as they could be charged and dangerous.

The storm led to numerous school cancellations, including Castleton University and the University of Vermont. Castleton posted to its Facebook page Friday morning that campus was closed until 7 p.m., while UVM announced a “state of campus emergency” caused by blowing, drifting snow. As of 1:30 p.m., classes were cancelled, administrative offices were closed, and only nonessential personnel were to remain on campus. A women’s hockey game was postponed, as was the Fleming Museum of Art Spring Opening.

The UVM campus doesn’t close often, said Jeff Wakefield, associate director of news and public affairs for the college. “We’ve closed due to snow about five times in the last 20 years,” he said in an email Friday.

State offices were closed early, according to a memo from the Office of Gov. Phil Scott. Offices closed from noon to the start of the third shift. This was done after consulting with the National Weather Service, Vermont Emergency Management, General Services, and the Agency of Transportation.

Closing state offices is also rare, said Beth Fastiggi, commissioner of the Department of Human Resources. She said while there have been a few delayed openings, it hasn’t happened since her tenure began in April 2017.

“It was just going to get worse,” she said of the weather.

keith.whitcomb @rutlandherald.com

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