The largest fleet of utility trucks, workers and resources in Vermont history is making steady, solid progress on storm restoration today, thanks to improving access and the sheer numbers of workers. But Vermont utility CVPS cautioned that complete restoration remains dependent on road access, and could take weeks.
As of 5 p.m., Tuesday, more than 57,000 customer outages have been restored, with 15,900 remaining.
“We have an unprecedented mass of workers, with more than 140 line trucks in the field, and nearly 600 contractors assisting,” said Scott Massie, manager of scheduling at CVPS. “That’s about three dozen more line trucks and 100 more people than the previous records set during the Nor’icane in 2007.
“We are attacking our problems methodically but quickly, and we’re making short work of the problems that we can access,” Massie said. “Where communities or neighborhoods are isolated, we’re working with the state and individual towns to try to get access, but it’s difficult work and will take time.”
CVPS spokesman Steve Costello said he was amazed by the progress made in the last 24 hours, as line crews, digger crews and support staff pieced together the electrical system, often in spots where roads are gone.
“Crews have restored far more service than I would have thought possible at this stage of the recovery,” Costello said. “They are committed to doing everything possible to bring back power, but we have a lot of work to do before any semblance of normalcy will return to the worst-affected areas. Access is by far our biggest challenge.”
Joe Kraus, senior vice president for engineering, operations and customer service, said workers were taking extraordinary steps and collaborating with state and local officials to gain access to isolated communities and clusters of customers.
“In many cases we are simply building new lines because access issues and the loss of basic infrastructure means we can’t rebuild our lines where they once were,” Kraus said. “In other cases, we’ve cut our way into isolated regions, built a temporary emergency bypass of Route 4 in Mendon, which will help us get to numerous towns along the Green Mountains, and we continue to look for new access routes in collaboration with local and state officials.”
In addition to the Route 4 bypass, CVPS gained access Tuesday to a temporary passage on Route 103, another key east-west route, which the state opened. The company is also communicating with officials in Rochester and Bethel, which are working from opposite ends of Bethel Mountain Road in an attempt to open up a one-lane access to Rochester, which is currently isolated. “Those are just a few examples of the collaboration that is going on between towns, the state and the company,” Costello said. “There has been extraordinary effort.”
Kraus reminded customers to stay away from any downed power lines, and cautioned that despite the legion of workers, the restoration process could be lengthy. “Folks are working 18- and 20-hour shifts, but this is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, or want to see again,” Kraus said.
While the worst flooding is over, Vermonters are being urged to use extra caution around waterways, many of which are still flowing at very high levels. “A lot of the smaller rivers, creeks and brooks may have dropped back considerably, but the water is still moving much faster than normal,” said Mike Scarzello, CVPS generation asset manager.
Costello reminded customers that if their home or business was flooded, they need to take special precautions. “If your electric service panel was affected by water, it has to be examined by a qualified electrician before we can restore service,” Costello said.
Up-to-date outage numbers (by town) can be found at: http://www.cvps.com/CustomerService/outages/ and http://vtoutages.com/