Storm strikes Vermont: Be prepared to go days without power, state leaders warn
HUNTINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - State leaders are warning Vermonters about what they consider the most dangerous stage of this unusual winter storm. Thousands are without power, and leaders warn that for some, it could last for days.
Heavy wind gusts blew over trees and knocked down power lines Friday morning. By afternoon, temperatures began to plummet. Forecasters expect a flash freeze, posing hazardous driving conditions. State leaders urged motorists to be off the roads by 4 p.m.
Power crews were out in force in Huntington on Friday, taking on the trifecta of trouble: rain, wind and freezing temperatures.
Emergency crews took advantage of a lull in the wind and rain in the most rural town in Chittenden County to clear some of the power lines that had been knocked down.
“We’re going around and around, now we’re just dealing with trees and trying to get power companies to open up roads,” said Yogi Clinton Alger, the Huntington road foreman.
At Beaudry’s Store, the generator supplied just enough power to keep the gas pumps and cash register running, an oasis for locals coming to find the latest news and information.
“My neighbor next door came over and, ‘Can you help us get in touch with B.J. to help us get the roof fixed?’” said Linda Pecor of Beaudry’s Store.
A crew is scheduled to fix the metal roof next door, which peeled back like the lid of a can.
Up the road in Milton, traffic lights bobbed in the gale-force winds. Some 3,000 people in Milton alone were without power Friday morning.
Bubby Cross lives next to one of the downed power lines in Milton and when we talked to him, he was still in the dark.
“Oh it was a blizzard here this morning, yeah, it was awful up here but it’s calmed down so it ain’t bad now,” he said.
Cross says he’s prepared for the outage with food water and a generator.
The state emergency operations center in Waterbury was activated Friday morning and Gov. Phil Scott and other state leaders held a news briefing to give Vermonters an update.
State leaders say the howling storm is one of the most complex to hit the Green Mountain State in years, with warm temperatures, wind and rain, and then a flash freeze.
“The severity of the temperature drop, that’s what’s keeping me up at night and what that means,” said Scott, R-Vermont.
Those low temps will last for days, and leaders are warning widespread power outages might, too.
Bitter cold conditions make repairing power lines a challenge.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you have a plan for your own personal safety, especially as we go into the weekend as people are trying to celebrate the holidays,” Vt. Emergency Management Director Erica Bornemann said.
Nonessential state offices were closed at 1 p.m. so personnel could get home. And the governor said the broader workforce should consider leaving work early too to stay off the roads.
The storm comes on the heels of a recent nor’easter. Utility companies asked out-of-state crews that came to help with that storm to stay and help with cleanup from this one. As always, Vermonters are warned to stay away from downed power lines.
The state says VTrans crews will be out all day and all night, working to improve road conditions as things begin to freeze. They expect road conditions will be greatly improved by Saturday morning. Click here for the latest on road conditions across our region.
In New Hampshire, about 52,000 customers were without power Friday afternoon as the strong winds topped trees and took down wires. That’s a little over 9% of the state without power.
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