Power outages enter fourth day as new storm approaches GMP warns further outages possible, be prepared

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

Utility crews work on Dale Road in Weston on Thursday. All photos Chester Telegraph

For more than 2,500 Green Mountain Power customers in Southern-Central Vermont, this was another morning of waking up to find that electricity had not been restored overnight. And with final restoration slated for Saturday night, GMP is now warning of another storm that could cause outages at the same time.

Early on Thursday morning, the utility reported that more customers in Andover, Grafton, Weston and Ludlow were without power than the day before but, during the day yesterday, tree and power crews made progress and those totals dropped on Friday morning.

And while the tally of customers affected dropped in a number of towns, the GMP Outage Center was reporting that Londonderry remained the worst hit town in the state. On Friday morning, with 803 customers affected, Derry was the only town still in red on GMP’s map.

Notification confuses many

A tree blocking Middle Town Rd. in South Londonderry on Thursday.

From the first hours following the storm, rumors about the timing of power restoration abounded. GMP offered the outage map and a text service to keep customers up-to-date, but unfortunate wording led to confusion and a sense that individual customers would no have power until Saturday night.

Residents who had signed up for text alerts from the power company got a notification on Thursday morning estimating that power would be restored by Saturday night, although the wording was confusing for many. An initial text read:

Utility crews work with M&M Excavating on Rt. 11 in Andover.

From GMP: Initial storm damage assessment done. Last customer on restoration estimates by region updated. Most customers power back sooner. Type STAT for update.

On responding to the text, customers received an estimate that appeared more individualized because it included the customer’s address:

From GMP: your power outage at customer’s address Estimated restoration: 12/01 10:00 PM

GMP had intended to say that all power would be restored by Saturday night, with most done earlier, but many took it as the time they would get power back personally.

Kristin Kelly of Green Mountain Power told The Telegraph that the company is communicating with its customers in a variety of ways including emails, texts and by phone to let them know what the outside time is for power to be back on but that many of them will have it back earlier than that.

Towns offer assistance

Area towns are offering assistance for those without power including warming shelters. Authorities from several towns have asked residents to check on neighbors to see if they need help.

A sign for those without power at the Whiting Library in Chester

The Whiting Library in Chester was open Wednesday – although it usually closes on school snow days – with a sign out offering a warm place where anyone could charge electronic devices. From 5:30 p.m. to midnight, Chester firefighters went door to door in affected areas to check on residents and offered to open a warming shelter at Town Hall if they needed that.

On Thursday and again on Friday, Chester Town Hall, 556 Main St., is open for those wanting to warm up and charge devices. For more information during the day, call Town Hall at 875-2173. If anyone needs to warm up at night, call 802-376-3240. There are no beds, but people are welcome to bring a cot and sleeping bag.

Until 8 p.m. today, the Londonderry Rescue Squad building, 6068 Rt. 100 in Londonderry, is open as a warming shelter. According to Emergency Management Director Kevin Beattie, those without power can come in to fill up water jugs, charge devices, play some games and have some hot soup. The Rescue Squad is located at. If you have questions, call Beattie at 802-548-8246.

The Andover town office running on a generator on Thursday

The Andover Town Hall is running on a generator and Town Clerk Jeanette Haight is concerned that, with the batteries that run the new fiber optic phone systems dying, there are hundreds of people out there with no way to call for help. Haight asks Andover residents to check on neighbors.

In Cavendish, Town Manager Brendan McNamara said that the Baptist Church at 2258 Main St.has been serving as a shelter since Tuesday. Self serve food, bottled water and showers are available and people can stay overnight. McNamara told The Telegraph that road crews have been busy clearing roads.

“Phon (Chambers the town’s road foreman) said he’s spent more time logging than plowing,” said McNamara.

Ups and downs for local businesses

GMP and Asplundh trucks line up at Country Girl Diner.

Local businesses also saw the effects of the storm. Asta Spafford told the Telegraph that she has been working hard to keep up with the increased demand for coffee at the Jiffy Mart.

“I’ve never made so much coffee since I’ve worked here,” said Spafford.

At the Country Girl Diner in Chester, owner Jess Holmes said her business is booming during the outage.

“People who have no place to cook are coming in for breakfast,” said Holmes. “Then there’s the power crews. They come in here cold, tired and hungry.”

According to Carrie Erskine, a Country Girl server, people without electricity at home have been coming from Andover, but also from as far away as Londonderry and Walpole, N.H. for breakfast.

Generator powering the internet at the Weston Marketplace on Thursday

“We’re always here,” said Holmes. “We all live close by, so if there was two feet of snow, we’ll open up.”

At the Weston Marketplace, where there was no power, owner Jeff Borhek had two generators running and was nearly sold out of the chicken with fries lunch special. Borhek said he was able to open up but the gas pumps weren’t working and he wasn’t able to take credit card transactions until mid-morning when another generator was hooked up to power the internet connection on the utility pole next to his building.

In Londonderry, Mike & Tammy’s was doing a booming business, but the the outage closed The Corner in South Derry. At the Heritage Deli & Bakery in Chester, owner Michelle Wilcox told The Telegraph that business was good on Thursday, but the closing of Green Mountain High School on Tuesday and Wednesday had hurt.

And the next storm…

Lini Mazumdar of South Londonderry prepares to refuel her generator.

In an early afternoon press release today, GMP said it is preparing for the possibility of new outages starting Saturday night. A storm bringing wet snow, freezing rain and ice is forecast to hit central and southern Vermont.

In the release,  Mary Powell, GMP’s president and CEO. is quoted as saying “We want customers to know that another round of outages is possible if this storm plays out the way forecasters predict, and we are keeping our army of out-of-state crews here to help us respond, We know customers have had a long week already. Our crews are working as hard as they can, and will not stop until power is back on for all customers, no matter how long it takes.”

The utility has had 180 line crews from Canada, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire in addition to its own 70 crews. Each crew consists of two people.

Middle Town Rd. closed on Thursday

GMP is also urging customers to prepare for outages. This can include charging your devices, stocking up on batteries for  flashlights and a battery-operated radio. Also, bottled water, food that does not require refrigeration (or cooking if you do not have a way to cook without power.) Be sure you have a supply of any medications you or you family take. Fill jugs pails or even the bathtub with water for flushing and make sure there’s toilet paper. Finally, don’t forget pets’ needs for food or medications.

A safety warning on a Grafton Rd. utility pole.

If you have heavy snow already on out buildings, sleet and rain will make it heavier, so consider raking roofs ahead of the storm. And of course, ice can make walking treacherous so consider getting a pair of ice cleats like YakTrax.

 

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