Windblown and left in the dark

This tree on Spear Street in Charlotte took the Comcast cable out as it came down at a home rented by Heather Karshagen. Karshegen said she’s grateful there was no damage to the home but was shocked to be greeted by the top of a tall tree in her doorway Monday morning. She leases from Clark Hinsdale and was out of power for only a few hours after the Oct. 29 storm. Photo by Lynn Monty.

Charlotte and neighboring towns suffer after strong winds sweep the region

Green Mountain Power reported a total of 1,319 Charlotte homes without power after an Oct. 29 wind storm left parts of the state in ruins. All of these customers had power restored by Nov. 3 at 8:40 a.m., GMP’s Kristin Carlson said.

Most of New England was hit hard by this weather event, with almost one million people affected at its height. The demand for line crews outstripped supply, leaving tens of thousands of Vermonters in the dark for days. Sustained 45mph winds caused about $4.5 million in damage to public infrastructure, state officials said.

Rural parts of the state were hit particularly hard. Large trees were toppled across roadways and dozens of utility poles snapped like toothpicks. It was reported that in Hinesburg, Williston and Richmond trees had fallen on power lines about every 1,000 feet.

Vermont Emergency Management’s Mark Bosma said neither Charlotte, Shelburne nor Hinesburg reported any damage. “That doesn’t mean there was no damage there, and in fact I know there was as I live in Shelburne,” Bosma said. “Towns aren’t required to report damages, and many towns don’t. As long as the county and state make the federal threshold we don’t chase down preliminary numbers from every town.”

Charlotte Road Commissioner Hugh Lewis, Jr. and his crew began clearing debris in town at 3:40 a.m. Monday morning and had roads fully cleared by 5:00 p.m. the same day. He estimates storm damage will cost the town about $10,000. “We had several large trees down that took us a couple days to clean up,” he said. “We also have a lot of other small trees, 6 inches in diameter to a foot, around town that we have not cleaned up yet.”

Reported damage in Chittenden County is just over $1 million; $800,000 of that is Vermont Electric Co-op (VEC). The storm impacted more than 17,000 VEC members. This rural utility has 32,000 members across 2,000 square miles.

VEC had 65 broken poles, each of which can take six or more hours to repair with a four-person crew, a bucket truck, a digger truck and other equipment. The utility also had some unrelated system incidents that required attention and resources, including two car/pole accidents, officials at the company said.

Two days after the storm hit, Ethan Allen Highway was closed temporarily at the Charlotte/Shelburne town line, both north and south bound, due to a tractor trailer becoming entangled in power lines.

“Sometimes there is a confluence of events outside of our control, but our team always rises to the task,” said Christine Hallquist, VEC’s chief executive officer. “I am very proud of how everyone at VEC pitched in—the expanded member service team, the employees in the control room, in addition to the great work from the crews in the field.”

To assist in the response, VEC brought in 50 line-clearance contractors and six pole-setting workers, as well as outside line workers. Eighteen line workers from three co-ops in Illinois as well as local crews from Burlington Electric, Orleans Electric, Swanton Electric and Green Mountain Power assisted to help get the power back on.

Vermont Emergency Management, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other partners began verifying damage caused by rain and wind storms on Nov. 8. The preliminary damage assessment will determine if the state qualifies for a federal public assistance disaster declaration.

To qualify for a declaration, FEMA must verify at least $1 million in public infrastructure damage and response costs, and individual counties must show $3.68 per capita to qualify. Those numbers include restoration costs for public utilities.