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VEC will seek help from FEMA for storm damage

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The heavy wet snow that stuck to trees in last week’s big snowstorm has caused power outages to continue throughout the week.   Photos by Tena Starr
The heavy wet snow that stuck to trees in last week’s big snowstorm has caused power outages to continue throughout the week. Photos by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle December 17, 2014 

by Tena Starr

Orleans County got off relatively lightly in last week’s big snowstorm. Several towns received a good foot of snow on the night of Tuesday, December 9. And they got it in a hurry.

But the county was not as affected by power outages as other places in Vermont.

By Monday afternoon, the Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) said that just 260 VEC members were without power. Line crews had repaired more than 35,000 outages since the storm, said spokesman Liz Gamache.

You could call last week’s storm the gift that kept on giving. After the initial mess was cleaned up, utilities warned that the heavy snow could continue to bring down trees and branches, causing more outages. And that’s just what happened.

VEC and officials with the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a preliminary damage assessment in the counties hurt by the storm.

A FEMA team is expected to be in Vermont on Wednesday to conduct the first of what is likely to be a series of visits. They will be assessing damage in Orleans County as well as Chittenden, Franklin, and Lamoille counties, to see if they are eligible for federal assistance.

VEC said on Monday that its estimates of the cost of restoring power is currently $2.9-million, though it expects that figure to increase to $3-million to $4-million as repairs continue.

As a cooperative, VEC may be eligible for FEMA assistance, as it was after the record-breaking ice storm of 2013.

On Wednesday, December 10, the morning after the storm, about 1,500 Vermont Electric members woke up to no power.

VEC correctly predicted that the number would likely increase.

The residents of a road in Glover lost power on Sunday morning, five days after the storm.

Donna Sweeney said she hadn’t actually noticed that her power was out until she got a call on her cell phone telling her that her regular phone wasn’t working.

She said that she and her husband have a generator, so were not badly inconvenienced. They received a phone call from VEC informing them that their power should be restored by Monday evening.

“I’ve never got a phone call before,” she said.

“I thought they did a really good job.”

Ice has formed now that the weather is warming up.
Ice has formed now that the weather is warming up.

Power was, in fact, restored before VEC had said it would be.

A press release from Vermont Electric said that as temperatures warmed on Sunday, trees and lines began to shed the snow and ice, causing new outages in areas that had already experienced considerable damage.

“The snow has been stuck like cement to the trees and power lines for days,” VEC’s Chief Executive Officer Dave Hallquist said in a Sunday press release. “We’re happy to see that starting to change, but warmer temperatures have brought a whole new round of outages and made existing ones that much worse. We’ve quadrupled our field staff, and we’ll keep working at that level until everyone is back up.”

Outages in Albany and Jay were reported on Tuesday.

contact Tena Starr at [email protected]

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