Thousands lost power in Windham County

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BRATTLEBORO — More than 20,000 households in Windham County experienced some sort of power outage as Tropical Storm Isaias made its way north Tuesday night. As of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, nearly 1,400 of those households were still without power in the county.

"Windham County took the brunt of the storm with most extensive damage and most outages," said Kristin Kelly, spokeswoman for Green Mountain Power.

"We had some really gusty winds, probably over 40 mph," said Steve Barrett, director of public works in Brattleboro. Barrett said most of the damage occurred in highly populated areas of town, starting in the early evening.

"Traditionally, we get outages in the rural areas of town," he said. "But the damage here was mostly located in our urban areas."

Road crews worked with the Brattleboro Fire Department, the Brattleboro Police Department and Green Mountain Power to make sure areas with damage were secured until power could be shut off to damaged lines before cleanup could be performed.

"There were a lot of streets that were blocked," said Barrett, including, but not limited to Vernon Road, Orchard Street, Western Avenue, Green Street and Putney Road. "It was all over town."

Road crews quit at midnight Tuesday and were back to work on Wednesday at 5 a.m., he said.

Barrett said about 2,600 households in Brattleboro were without power for various lengths of time.

"We responded to 16 emergencies during the height of the wind last evening, starting around 4 p.m.," said Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi. "A majority were trees and power lines down. We also had three structures hit by falling trees, all with minor damage. There was some major damage to the power infrastructure in the South Main Street neighborhood."

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Bucossi reminded people that they shouldn't drive around barricades on closed streets while cleanup is being done. "And stay away from downed trees and power lines as everything should be considered energized and dangerous."

Across the state, about 36,000 customers lost power, said Kelly.

"Most of the damage was concentrated in the southern part of the state, from Bennington to Brattleboro and north along the eastern side of Vermont up through the Upper Valley area north of White River," she wrote in an email to the media.

"Crews had to spend time clearing branches, trees and downed lines just to make roads safe to travel last night, before they could start power restoration work in many locations. The winds were strong as the storm reached Vermont," stated Mike Burke, GMP's chief of field operations, in the email.

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Across New England, more than one million customers were without power on Wednesday morning. In Vermont, the downed lines and trees created hundreds of individual breaks in the power system, and GMP has extra crews adding to their own field force. Due to the extent of the damage, restoration in some of the hardest hit places might not be complete until Thursday.

TREE ON HOUSE

In Athens, Mickey Parker-Jennings said he was reading in bed when something like a bomb went off, shaking his whole house, around 6 p.m.

"It was super scary," he said. He and his two sons tried to get out of the house to see what had happened but they were blocked by a 200-year-old maple tree that had been knocked down by the wind.

"The house was damaged and the roof was pretty banged up," said Parker-Jennings, who was just getting off the phone with his insurance company, which assured him the damage was covered under his plan.

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Parker-Jennings said he was so surprised by the crashing of the tree that he didn't notice a limb, about one-and-a-half feet in diameter had punched a hole in the wall in his bedroom.

"It was maybe six feet away from my head," he said. "But I didn't even know it happened when I got up and ran out of the room. When I went back into the bedroom I saw all the debris and said `What the heck just happened?"

Parker-Jennings said he and his family have lived in the house for 16 years and the maple tree looked healthy from the outside.

"But where it split, in the center it was rotten," he said.

In New Hampshire, more than 110,000 Eversource customers lost power on Tuesday night. By about 11 a.m. on Wednesday, power had been restored to all but 30,000.

"More than 550 line, tree and service workers are currently repairing damage and restoring power to our customers as quickly and safely as possible, and we'll continue to shift our crews and resources to the hardest-hit areas where they are needed most," stated Eversource NH President Joe Purington in an email to the media.

In Hinsdale, N.H., Highway Superintendent Frank Podlenski said the damage was minimal, with most of the cleanup in North Hinsdale.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.


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