Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo A large maple tree fills the yard of Dave Boynton's Plainfield home on Wednesday morning after high winds felled the tree during a storm Tuesday night.
BARRE — After Tuesday night’s fast-moving storm caused widespread power outages and fallen trees, electric utilities and communities worked through the day Wednesday to recover from the second major summer storm in a week.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, 1,680 power outages were reported statewide, according to www.vtoutages.com.
The storm, which included high winds, rain and lightning, rolled through the region beginning around 10:30 p.m. By midnight, radar showed nearly clear skies.
Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Kristin Carlson said during the peak of the storm late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, tens of thousands of GMP customers were without power, including 4,000 in just Washington County.
As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, that number of outages had been reduced to 1,881, and Wednesday afternoon Carlson reported 20 homes in Washington County were still without power. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, some 1,300 GMP customers remained without power, largely in the hardest hit areas of Middlebury and St. Johnsbury.
Carlson said the most severe storm damage was concentrated in Washington and Addison counties and that restoration from the storm would likely continue in those areas well into Wednesday night.
In the 18 hours since the storm hit Tuesday night, GMP crews — accompanied by more than 200 additional lineworkers and tree trimmers — had restored power to more than 32,000 customers. Crews worked around the clock to cut trees from lines, set new poles, string new lines and get power back quickly to customers.
“Fast restoration like this can only be done with a dedicated and highly trained team and advance planning,” said Dorothy Schnure, another GMP spokeswoman.
“We had our crews in place and lined up extra workers in advance of the storm in an effort to respond quickly as soon as outages began,” she said. “This has allowed us to restore power quickly and also ensure that the public and our crews remain safe.”
This most recent storm hit all of Vermont, from Leicester to Bristol to Danville and Cabot.
The storm late Tuesday marked the second major weather event in a week. Carlson said GMP had to restore power to 37,000 customers statewide over the Fourth of July weekend following severe rain and wind.
Other electric utilities also reported power outages due to Tuesday night’s storm.
Patty Richards, general manager of Washington Electric Cooperative, said that at the height of the storm just under 1,000 of its members were without power.
As of Wednesday afternoon, according to Richards, that number had gone down to roughly 300 customers.
In a news release sent out early Wednesday morning, Vermont Electric Cooperative reported that power had been restored to about 1,900 customers who’d lost it the previous night. VEC said that as of Wednesday morning, 575 of its members had been awaiting power restoration.
Brooke Taber, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington, said the long line of storms that crossed across Vermont from New York late Tuesday evening was a once-a-year-type weather event.
“It can happen, but it’s typically a once a summer,” he said.
Tuesday’s storm was more powerful than most summer storms because of the high surface level winds and a cold front that helped to intensify the storm’s power, according to Taber.
“We had a lot of things lined up, a lot of ingredients lined up perfectly, to produce this severe weather event,” he said. “The reason why it was such widespread, damaging winds was that the right combination of winds just above the surface and instability combined to produce the severe thunderstorms.”
Taber said wind speeds reached 70 mph to 90 mph between 1,000 to 2,000 feet about the earth’s surface.
“This low-level jet was able to transfer its wind to the surface through the thunderstorms,” he said.
Damage reports from some of the hardest-hit areas in Vermont indicate wind speeds normally associated with coastal storms.
“This is fairly unique to have this high-end event across northern New York and into Vermont. In isolated areas you could say the winds were 60 (mph) to 80 mph, given the damage reports that we have seen,” Taber said.
Those wind speeds mean the storm was essentially a high-end tropical storm or low-level category 1 hurricane, according to Taber.
“We’re just basing our wind speeds on the damage reports of trees and power lines down, property damage,” he said.
Around the region, the damage ranged.
Plainfield Village experienced a power outage as a result of the storm. The town of Plainfield also had fallen trees and power outages. Several roads had large trees blocking them well into the morning, including Middle, Lower and Country Club roads.
In Marshfield, there were also trees in the road as well as power outages. Crews were called out to Darling Road and Laird Pond Road to assist with clearing fallen trees from power lines.
Bruce Johnson, the East Montpelier town and zoning administrator, said that there were reports of trees down causing partial to full road blockage into early Wednesday morning. However, he said he hadn’t been contacted, meaning that no roads had been closed. Johnson also noted that there were some fallen trees on wires as well as power outages.
Ray Hudson of the Northfield Highway Department reported that the damage from the storm in Northfield also was minimal. Hudson estimated that there were about 10 to 12 trees down as a result of the storm. As of noon Wednesday, the trees were just about cleaned up. Hudson said the town also experienced minimal power outages as a result of the storm. In Cabot, there were trees in the road as a result of the storm as well as some power outages. However, as of Wednesday the trees had been cleared up and the roads were passable.
In Barre City, the fire department reported that the city had to deal with one transformer fire as a result of the storm when a tree branch fell on some power lines. Fire Marshal Matthew Cetin said that there were no injuries as a result of the incident. He said the overall damage from the storm was minimal in Barre City, although much of downtown was left in the dark for part of the night.
“We got very lucky,” he said.
Barre Town’s Superintendent of Public Works Richard Tetreault said that Barre Town had about 25 trees down as a result of the storm. Tetreault said the town was working on cleaning up the damage, and said he expects the last of it will be cleaned up by Thursday afternoon. Tetreault described the damage caused by the storm as “minimal.”
In Montpelier, Director of Public Works Todd Law said the city had some trees down, but that the damage was not significant. He said that most of the damage was in the outer limits of the city. Law said the city was dealing with a total of five trees down, and that most of the damage was isolated to Towne Hill Road. According to Law, as of Wednesday, all the fallen trees had been cleaned up, with the exception of one on Murray Road that got caught on a wire. Law said the power company will have to deal with that one.
In Warren, Town Clerk Reta Goss reported that a few tree limbs had fallen on power lines but that there was no significant damage. Waterbury Public Works Director Alec Tuscany said that Waterbury made it through the storm with no damage.
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