Vermonters still left struggling without power - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermonters still left struggling without power

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ENOSBURGH, Vt. -

The power may not return until early next week for some Vermont homeowners. And Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, announced Thursday the state will apply for federal disaster aid to help pay for the outage repairs.

About 1,260 customers were without electricity as of 6 p.m. Thursday, most in hard-hit Franklin County. That figure is down from a total of more than 70,000 who lost service at one point or another since Saturday. But numbers did rise Thursday afternoon as fresh snow further weighed down trees coated in ice. Crews are working around the clock and town officials say all the extra effort needs to be repeated when the weather won't break.

"There's no doubt it's a disaster area," said Garry Atherton, the public works director for Enosburgh Village.

Running on little sleep and sacrificing holiday time with family and friends, crews work around the clock to restore power in Franklin County.

"We were out Tuesday, all day. We were out yesterday all day until dark. And we're back out here today. We gotta do what we gotta do," said Ronald Rich of Rich's Tree Service.

Each flake and gust of wind threatens to create new problems as already strained limbs bear more weight.

"It's not just going through there once. A lot of times once they get through-- especially with the weather we're having now-- the power goes back out where you have been before and you've just got to revisit the area," Atherton said.

Atherton says those on the outer edges of town likely face a wait time measured in days not hours.

"The last of our customers definitely could be looking at least at the end of the weekend, more likely than not, later than that," he said.

Across the area a few hundred remain powerless, but the Red Cross closed the final emergency shelter late Christmas Day.

Earlier in the week, when more than 40,000 statewide lacked power, the shelters had a small but steady number of residents bunking down.

"But then we saw the decline down to the number of zero. A lot of that oftentimes is folks have pretty well set themselves up in their homes and many are running off generators that still don't have electricity," said Timothy Stetson of the Red Cross.

Generators aren't only heating and lighting homes, they're also reopening lines of communication by adding power to land lines where cellphone coverage isn't great. Official aid arrives from New Hampshire, New York, and Massachusetts daily. Neighbors with the means to help, lend a plow.

"We've always been neighborly up here on the hill, kind of to be expected. But we help each other out," said John Johnson of Sheldon.

The neighborhood will need all the help it can get. Along with the short-term concerns, maple syrup season could be sticky with broken trees, taps and lines.

Local officials say they hope to receive federal disaster funds to help with their budgets. Late Thursday, Gov. Shumlin asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess damage in Caledonia, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille and Orleans counties.

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