Utilities Urge Customers to Stay Inside, Stay Safe Sunday During Hurricane Irene Hundreds of Workers Coming to Help

26 August 2011


A joint press release from Vermont Electric Utilities

For immediate release: Aug. 26, 2011

Hundreds of contract utility and tree workers from as far away as Illinois, Missouri, Texas and Canada are on their way to assist Vermont utilities as Hurricane Irene bears down on the region. They are expected to arrive before the storm. Vermont crews and support staff are on standby, and supplies, lodging, food and other logistical details are being firmed up to ensure a strong response if the storm brings significant problems. Government officials are also coordinating efforts to assure the necessary resources are available.

Utilities urge customers to prepare for the possibility of being without power for several days, possibly even more, should the storm take a track for the worse. There is a high probability of damaging high winds and heavy rain that could cause extensive damage, power outages and flooding Sunday into Monday. Customers across the state could see widespread power outages beginning Sunday afternoon, though the exact track of the storm is still uncertain.

Utilities and officials are urging Vermonters to plan to remain indoors in a safe location beginning Sunday afternoon as the storm begins to hit the state. Customers with life support and special medical needs are a priority in restoring power, but it may be impossible to restore power quickly and those with medical concerns should make alternative plans now. All customers should prepare to be without power for several days, possibly more, and should make contingency plans ahead of time.

Vermonters are urged to stay off the roads Sunday evening and throughout the storm unless absolutely necessary. Officials remind Vermonters to reduce cell phone usage during the storm, but to call their local utility when they lose power. Stay away from all downed power lines or anything in contact with those lines.

Weather, infrastructure damage and falling trees may prevent crews from responding to outages safely for a period of time. Due to the dangerous nature of sustained winds up to 50 mph, and higher gusts, much of that predicted to hit after dark, crews will do their best to respond to emergency situations, but will not begin repair work until the most dangerous weather has passed through the state. Roads may also be blocked or closed after the storm goes through, which could also slow restoration efforts.

Current forecasts for Hurricane Irene include the threat of sustained winds of 30 to 50 mph, with gusts of 65 to 75 mph.

Vermont utilities urged customers to be sure to have flashlights, batteries, food and water available in case they lose electrical service, and suggested that friends, family and neighbors check on elderly Vermonters who may need help.  Candles are not recommended as light sources during a power outage due to fire risk.

When electricity goes out, the utilities’ first concern is safety, then restoring service to large blocks of customers and critical facilities, like hospitals.

Who gets power restored first?
When electricity goes out, the utilities’ first concern is safety.  Line work and downed lines present great risks to employees and customers, so safety is a grave concern.  Always stay at least 50 feet from downed lines!

When major storms hit and outages occur, we try to restore service to all of our customers as soon as possible. Here’s a look at our priorities:

  1. Problems that present an imminent danger to life.
  2. Failure at a key point on the system affecting thousands of customers, such as a transmission line (a main highway of the power system).
  3. Main distribution lines, which are smaller than transmission lines, but may serve hundreds of customers.
  4. Hospitals, police and fire stations, and other critical facilities.
  5. Single lines.
  6. Single customers.
  7. Cleanup work.

If you’re on life support, please call your utility.

The utilities offered the following advice:

  • Before outages occur, be sure you have a phone that is hard-wired and does not rely on electricity.
  • Fill a bathtub with water before you lose service so the water can be used to flush toilets when the power is out. PREVENT UNSUPERVISED BATHROOM ACCESS TO CHILDREN.
  • Treat any downed line as if it is live.  Report the line to your local utility and fire department, stay at least 50 feet away from the line, and keep children and pets away as well.
  • If using a generator, read and follow the owner’s manual before starting it.  Never operate a generator inside any structure or near a structure.  Use a transfer switch to ensure electricity is not accidentally fed onto a line where line crews must work.
  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed as much as possible to prevent food spoilage.
  • If power goes out, turn off all electrical appliances except one light so you’ll know when service returns.  Then, turn equipment back on slowly.
  • Never use grills inside garages, sheds or other buildings, as the fumes can be poisonous.


Media contacts:

Barton Village Inc. Electric Department, Denis Poirier (802-525-4748) 
Burlington Electric Department, Mary Sullivan (802-865-7417)
Central Vermont Public Service, Christine Rivers (802-742-2415)
Green Mountain Power, Dotty Schnure (802-655-8418)
Lyndonville Electric Department, Kenneth C. Mason (802-626-3366)
Morrisville Water & Light Department (802-888-3348)
Vermont Electric Company (VELCO), Kerrick Johnson (802-770-6166)
Vermont Electric Cooperative, Inc., Elizabeth Gamache (800-832-2667, ext. 1158 or 802-730-3424)
Vermont Marble Power Division of Omya Inc., Barry Donovan (802-770-7168)
Vermont Public Power Supply Authority, Brian Callnan (802-244-7678)
The Town of Hardwick Electric Department, Eric Werner (802-472-5201)
The Town of Stowe Electric Department, Ellen L. Burt (802-253-7215)
The Village of Enosburg Falls Water & Light Department, Jonathan Elwell (802-933-4443)
The Village of Hyde Park, Don Waterhouse (802-888-2310)
The Village of Jacksonville Electric Company, Joseph Winter (802-368-2811)
The Village of Johnson Water & Light Department, Duncan Hastings (802-635-2611)
The Village of Ludlow Electric Light Department (802-228-3721)
The Village of Northfield Electric Department, Nanci Allard (802-485-6121)
The Village of Orleans Electric Department, John Morley, III (802-754-8584)
The Village of Swanton Electric Department (802-868-3397)
Washington Electric Cooperative Inc., Avram Patt (802-223-6705, ext. 312)