KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- The state's first big winter storm brought lots of snow and preparation by emergency officials but came with little in the way of crashes and power outages.
"We've been dealing with a couple of accidents," said Vermont State Police Lt. Reginald Trayah, commander of the VSP barracks in Shaftsbury. "For the most part it's been slide-offs."
He said there had been no serious crashes or injuries as of Thursday afternoon, when the storm began to taper off. He said other VSP stations farther north experienced some weather-related troubles, but Bennington County was largely spared.
"Our saving grace from this was that it was during school vacation and a lot of people knew about it," Trayah said. Schools have not been in session because of the holidays and the storm had ample attention from the media, as it was part of a system that went over the Midwest during Christmas and was blamed for the deaths of six people along with power outages and transportation hindrances.
Trayah said he did not have to put additional troopers on staff to manage traffic issues.
Stephen Kauppi, chairman of the Pownal Select Board and owner of a towing service said his town was fairly quiet in terms of crashes. He said one vehicle went off the road near Armstrong's farm stand on Route 7. Most of what he heard about was over the scanner and came from the northern part of the county.
Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd said while roads were slippery, crashes were minimal. "There haven't been any major problems," said Hurd. "People stayed off the roads, which was pretty nice."
At around 2 p.m. he said the storm was largely over with and Bennington's road crews had been keeping ahead of it, putting down salt and sand as well as plowing.
According to Evan Heller, of the National Weather Service station in Albany, N.Y., two reporting stations in Bennington returned snow reports. Woodford reported 21 inches at 11:17 a.m., Thursday, the highest in this area, while the Landgrove station reported 12 inches at 11:37 a.m. Heller said another inch was expected to fall over Thursday night. On average the Bennington area received between five and 12 inches of snow.
Green Mountain Power, the state's largest electric utility, did not experience the widespread power outages it had been bracing for.
"Thanks to temperatures that remained well below freezing and moderate winds, this winter storm has not resulted in widespread outages for GMP customers," wrote GMP Spokesman Jeremy Baker in an email. "We will continue monitoring the weather and quickly restoring power if outages occur."
According to Robert Schell chief of field operations for the Vermont Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, no roads had to be closed because of the storm and only minor power outages were reported. Schell wrote in an email that more snow is expected to fall, making driving difficult. Anyone who can avoid road travel is being asked to do so, and if driving is a must to go slowly and allow for the added time the trip will take.
The Vermont Division of Fire Safety has some tips for handling the snow when off the road. People should:
* Make sure their homes have working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.
* Keep heating vents clear of snow to prevent CO from backing up into the home.
* Don't use generators or grills inside and follow the directions in their users' manuals.
* Keep emergency exits clear of ice and snow.
* Store ash from woodstoves in fire-resistant containers. Keep a lid on the container and put it outside away from the home and things that can burn.
* Keep an eye on roofs where snow is piling up to avoid a collapse.
* The elderly and those with special needs should alert local utilities and officials of those needs should there be a power outage. People should also check on their elderly neighbors to make sure their needs are set and to offer help for snow removal.