BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – The region is digging out from its largest winter storm of the season. Heavy snow overnight buried northern areas in drifts well over a foot-deep, causing treacherous driving, and closing schools. To the south, freezing rain coated trees, causing power outages.
“It’s right up there… Couple of years ago we had one similar to this but they’re all a bugger,” said Ron Bouffard.
“This is getting up there. The snow is up to my mailbox on the other side of the street and I haven’t seen it up that high since I don’t know, maybe once last year,” said Jim Wadleigh of Essex.
“We’ve had some bigger ones but take what you can get,” said Ron Bushey of Essex Junction.
Friday rolled around with more snow to tack onto totals of more than a foot from overnight. In Burlington, crews worked around the clock to clear snow. They also called for a second snow parking ban for Friday night. “We have 10 trucks out there. They are running 24/7, so by tomorrow morning the roads will be in great shape,” said Burlington DPW’s Chapin Spencer. He says due to all the snow, they had to put blowers on the 10 sidewalk tractors, meaning it will take longer to get to all the neighborhoods. “It is going to take us probably more than a day to get through all 130 miles of sidewalk.”
VTrans plows across the state worked to keep the roads as clear as possible. Officials say the longer the duration of the storm, the more challenging. Staffing and COVID have also impacted drivers, but managers and supervisors have been jumping in when necessary. “During the storm, as we say over and over, you’re going to see snow on the roadways. Most of our routes are 2 to 2.5 hours and they have to go in and fill up trucks and fuel them up, so these long-duration storms are trying for our employees and for the traveling public,” said VTrans’ Todd Law.
Law says there were fewer people on the roads Friday morning, which made their jobs easier.
As the afternoon wore on, crews on Church Street worked to clear paths for pedestrians.
“It’s so beautiful. We are just enjoying seeing snow we don’t ever get to see and it’s really special. And the grandkids are getting to see snow they haven’t seen before. They’re having fun playing in it,” said Jenny Baker, a visitor from South Carolina.
FREEZING RAIN CAUSES THOUSANDS TO LOSE POWER
In southern Vermont, it was the freezing rain and resulting power outages that created the most headaches for residents.
The heavy rain came in Thursday night and turned to ice, causing tree limbs to break and fall on power lines and leaving thousands of customers in Bennington County in the dark.
“If you travel around, there’s a lot of branches down, there’s a lot of cars damaged,” said James Baker, who lives on Warm Brook Road, one of the hardest-hit areas in Arlington. “We’re pretty cold. It’s about 50 degrees in the house. We have a fire going in the fireplace but that’s really not enough to warm the house.”
The forecasts were accurate, allowing Green Mountain Power to bring in dozens of outside line crews and move crews from northern locations. “Just an army of people working as quickly as they can,” said GMP’s Steve Costello. He says there was a dividing line near Dorset where those to the south got heavy ice and those to the north had snow. “Getting switches to operate has been a challenge. We’re having to defrost them using torches all over this area.”
By noon, GMP had restored power for over 6,600 customers, but there were still about 4,200 without power, and continuing heavy snow and ice leading to more calls — that’s if people were lucky to have phone service.
“We’ve never lost cell service during a storm, so it’s very weird,” said Shelby Hannan at Arlington Animal Hospital. They were without power but remained open, sending emergency cases to an emergency clinic or Green Mountain Veterinary Hospital. “Which is sad, because I wish we could help more people but we can’t with no power.”
“This is Vermont. This is where we live and we have to expect this every now and then,” Baker said.
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