Vt. officials seek FEMA disaster assessment for Christmas storm

Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 9:24 AM EST
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WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont emergency management officials say last month’s Christmas winter storm caused upwards of $2 million in damage and that they are asking FEMA for a disaster assessment.

The December 23-24 storm caused widespread power outages across the state leaving some homes in the dark for up to a week. Officials say municipal and nonprofit utilities alone accounted for upwards of $2 million in damage. That does not take into account privately-owned Green Mountain Power, the largest utility in the state, which is not part of the federal assessment. The request asks for assessments in Addison, Caledonia, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, and Orleans counties.

“This storm was significant for Vermonters and Vermont’s utilities,” Vermont Emergency Management Director Erica Bornemann said in a statement. “Municipal, nonprofit, and public utilities worked for several days to restore electric service to tens of thousands of customers in rural areas of Vermont.”

Vermont Electric Co-op’s Andrea Cohen says the storm cost them 2.5 times their storm damage budget for the whole year. “Now would be incredibly helpful if it qualifies as a FEMA event, because we wouldn’t be able to access funding to help cover that cost. So we’ll see whether in fact it does or not. If not, yes, we’d have to borrow money and therefore we’d have to pay that off and it’s a challenging time for coops,” she said.

Vermont must have incurred at least $1.1 million in recovery costs to qualify for federal funds. A disaster declaration could reimburse municipal and nonprofit utilities for 75% of restoration costs.

FEMA is starting its damage assessment Monday by reviewing financial records with utilities.

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