Halloween storm causes over $3 million in damage statewide

Gov. Phil Scott looks at a live map of power outages
Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger
Gov. Phil Scott looks at a live map of power outages during a press conference on Friday at state offices in Waterbury.

ERIN PETENKO
VT Digger

Nearly 100 Vermont towns have reported some $3 million in damage and counting from the record-breaking Halloween storm that left about 100,000 people without power and washed out roads across the state. 

As of Monday, Nov. 4, power had been restored to almost everyone who lost it. Two utilities – Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Cooperative – predicted their outages would all be resolved by the end of Monday. As of 1 p.m., fewer than 600 Vermonters still had no power.

Vermont’s Department of Public Service said there were scattered reports of phone and internet outages, but no large scale failures. Verizon services went down for 3 hours in the Burlington area Friday night after a FirstLight fiber was cut, officials believe. 

Nineteen towns have reported major storm damage and another 97 towns have reported minor storm damage, said Mark Bosma, a spokesperson from Vermont Emergency Management. But he said more towns could report in the hours and days ahead. 

The state estimated $1.4 million in damage on Monday morning, then raised it to $3 million later in the afternoon. That’s well above the $1 million statewide threshold for federal disaster assistance, he said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency toured several Vermont sites Tuesday, Nov. 5, to verify the impact. 

Each county would also have to hit a per-capita threshold of $3.78 per resident to receive disaster relief, on top of the $1 million statewide, Bosma said. FEMA would compensate towns up to 75 percent of their costs for road repairs, debris removal and local utility work.

GMP said the storm, which started Halloween night and continued into Friday, Nov. 1, was the fifth largest in the utility’s history, in terms of outages. The storm also set a record for rainfall on Halloween, reaching 3.3. inches in Burlington, according to the National Weather Service. 

Only one of the 30 main roads the storm damaged is still listed as closed: VT-105 in Richford, where crews are installing a temporary bridge, according to the Vermont Agency of Transportation. 

The number of homeowners dealing with damage is harder to estimate. Bosma said eight people have called the 211 system to report problems with their home. In the case of major and widespread damage, Vermont could apply for individual assistance disaster relief from the federal government, but that hasn’t occurred since Irene, he said.

“We could have been fortunate and only have had some basement floods and things like that,” he said.

The 211 system expanded its hours over the weekend and allowed residents to leave messages despite recently cutting its hours back, Bosma said.

Clay Purvis, the head of telecommunications at DPS, said the department has not received any reports of people being unable to call 911 since the storm swept through.

Purvis said Consolidated Communications, the state’s main landline telephone operator, had experienced an uptick in “trouble tickets” — individual customers complaining of service disruptions or other problems — but did not report any widespread outages. 

Verizon services went down for about 3 hours Friday night in the Burlington area. Burlington police said the outage knocked some of the digital devices in their cruisers offline. Purvis said the department believes the outage was caused by FirstLight fiber being cut. 

Purvis said the department has sent queries to Verizon and FirstLight, which provides connectivity to many other providers in Vermont, to find out what happened that caused the outage. 

Colin Meyn contributed reporting.

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