FEMA officials survey Vermont storm damage

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STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) Will Vermont cities and towns get help paying for storm cleanup? That hinges on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose officials spent the day assessing damage in parts of the state.

"We have, as you can see, a lot of damage. A lot of trees, a lot of poles, a lot of wires, so we're just collecting that information right now," said David Savastano, a FEMA project specialist.

Although a powerful storm mixed with intense rains and heavy winds hit over a week and a half ago, the cleanup continued Wednesday. In Stowe, trees were still being removed from power lines.

"Very hard-hitting storm. This was the worst I have seen in the 22 years I've been with the company," said Ellen Burt of the Stowe Electric Department.

Stowe Electric leaders say crews were brought in from around New England to restore over three-quarters of their customers who were in the dark. But even though power was restored by last weekend, labor, equipment and meal costs have added up.

"We've got an estimate today of $463,000 of damage. And there's a lot of cleanup and a lot of work involved," Burt said.

The utility says their line of credit will increase and consumer prices could go up with it as the storm's damage continues to add up.

The final tree blocking Trapp Hill Road was removed Wednesday. Access has been blocked there since the storm hit a week and a half ago.

"It's hard for small towns to come back from a big disaster like this," said Jim Cota of VTrans.

Vermont city and town officials are hoping to be reimbursed with federal dollars for the unexpected cost of cleanups.

FEMA staffers are visiting 10 of 14 counties in the state, conducting Preliminary Damage Assessments. To qualify for reimbursement, at least $1 million in damage to public infrastructure and emergency response costs must be found by FEMA.

Vermont Emergency Management officials say they've already identified more than four times that.

"From what I've seen, the areas that they brought us to, it seems like the damage is there," Savastano said.

Once the damage is tallied, Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, must request the money from President Trump, who will make the final call. That likely won't happen until sometime next year.