LIVE UPDATES: Power outages, road closures in Vermont from storm bringing heavy wind, snow & rain
A multi-faceted "Southeaster" storm barreled its way through Vermont Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning with high winds, heavy, wet snow and rain.
At the peak of outages around 7 a.m. Wednesday, over 29,000 households had lost power, and utilities say outages could last several days in some areas.
Communities on the western side of the Green Mountains and in parts of the Northeast Kingdom were hardest hit.
New England 511 also reported multiple road closures Wednesday morning due to downed trees and utility lines, including in Brandon, Bristol, Cambridge, Jericho, Middlebury and West Tinmouth.
Meteorologists like Jay Shafer, with Disaster Tech, have compared this storm to one that hit Vermont just before Christmas in 2022.
"In terms of its size and potential magnitude — that storm produced about 1.6 million people without power in the eastern United States at the peak of the storm."
In both storms, strong winds came from the southeast — a direction that’s pretty rare for powerful gusts in Vermont. Another similar storm is forecast for Friday night going into Saturday.
- Keep up-to-date on weather forecasts with the Eye on the Sky from the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.
- Here's a list of warming shelters from Vermont 211.
- You can find a statewide power outage map here.
- Traffic and road conditions are listed on New England 511.
- The Department of Public Safety's Vermont Emergency management has tips for power outages, such as checking on older neighbors, never touching downed or damaged powerlines, having flashlights, a crank radio and extra batteries on hand, making sure your carbon monoxide detectors work and filling your bathtub with water to have as spare for flushing toilets and washing (though not for drinking!).
- School closings will be updated here.
Farms in Cambridge's Pleasant Valley hit hard
In Cambridge's Pleasant Valley on Wednesday, evidence of the previous night's storm lay all along the sides of Upper Pleasant Valley Road.
At the Hutchins farm, an uproot black locust tree lay on top of the white farmhouse. Further down the road toward Jeffersonville, an old barn collapsed. On the way to North Underhill, tree limbs blocked lanes of traffic and a free-standing solar panel leaned, crooked, toward the ground.
Frank Hutchins, who lives in the damaged farmhouse, says when storms bring wind from the east, Pleasant Valley becomes "disaster alley."
"It's not the first one, and it won't be the last of these coming through here," Hutchins said.
Indeed, another storm with strong winds is predicted to blow through this weekend.
Thousands of homes still without power Wednesday afternoon
Thousands of homes are still without power in communities in the western slopes of the Green Mountains and parts of the Northeast Kingdom as of Wednesday afternoon.
That’s after high winds from Tuesday night’s storm tossed trees across roads, ensnared power lines, and damaged homes across the state.
“Some uprooted certainly, but also a lot just broke right in half,” said Rebecca Towne, the head of Vermont Electric Coop, which services the northern part of Vermont.
At the storm’s peak, about a quarter of their system was without power, and as of Wednesday afternoon, more than 15,000 homes are still without power across the state.
“We saw a lot [of damage] in Cambridge, Waterville, also Underhill, Jericho, Huntington, Hinesburg, particularly in the rural, very treed back dirt roads,” said Towne.
“Also in the very northern part of the Northeast Kingdom. Actually Holland got a lot of wind. It blew the roof off their town garage. And that roof took a whole bunch of poles and primary wire with it as well. So we’re busy cleaning up stuff like that.”
Towne says some homes could be without power until as late as Friday.
She added that people should remain wary of damaged trees, which could still fall.
“Particularly with the wind coming in this weekend, it could tip some more,” she said.
Weekend storm may look similar to Tuesday
The storm Tuesday night produced some of the strongest winds Vermont's seen in recent years.
The National Weather Service recorded max wind gusts of 69 miles per hour in Burlington — which is the fourth highest ever documented in Vermont, per Matt's Weather Report.
And wind gusts along the western slope of the Green Mountains ranged from 50 to 70 miles per hour, though one reporter in Huntington Center clocked 91 miles per hour according to meteorologist Mark Breen at the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.
Wind gusts combined with wet, heavy snow and rain to create power outages in roughly 29,000 households Wednesday morning.
Peter Banacos from the National Weather Service says the upcoming storm Friday night will look similar to Tuesday’s.
“It may just be a little bit lower in terms of the intensity, but the setup of having a really strong area of low pressure moving through the Great Lakes looks similar." Banacos says. "It's a very similar pattern overall.”
In addition to strong winds, Banacos says this upcoming storm will once again start with a period of heavy, wet snow before transitioning into rain Saturday morning.
NOTE: This post has been updated as of 9:09 a.m., Jan. 11, 2024 to clarify sourcing for reported wind speeds.
The view from Cambridge
Cambridge was among many places in Vermont hit hard by winds and winter weather Tuesday evening.
There are several hundred power outages in Lamoille County. Route 15 in Cambridge is closed due to a motor vehicle crash that entangled with utility lines.
Roads closed across state due to downed powerlines, trees
A major regional storm hit Vermont last night into this morning, and roads have been impacted.
As of this post, New England 511 is reporting closures at:
- VT 73 in Brandon at Goshen Town Road due to downed trees and wires — and travel over the Brandon gap is NOT advised.
- VT 116 in Middlebury from Quarry Road to Notch Road, also due to multiple downed trees and utility lines.
- Route 116 in Bristol between Hewitt and River roads.
- VT 15 in Cambridge at the "wrong-way" bridge due to a motor vehicle crash entangled with utility lines.
- Also VT 15 in Jericho near Packard Road due to a downed utility pole and a fire.
VT 133 in West Tinmouth near East Wells Road was also closed due to a low-hanging tree with wires, but has since reopened.
Find the latest road closures and reopenings here.
Over 26,000 households without power as of 6 a.m.
The storm system that hit Vermont overnight has left over 26,000 households without power, as of 6 a.m.
Utilities say outages could last several days in some areas.
Meteorologists predicted communities on the western side of the Green Mountains would be hardest hit, and as of this morning, Chittenden, Addison, Rutland, and Franklin counties are reporting the highest number of outages, in that order.
Utility crews expected to wait out heavy winds before making repairs
As a winter storm barrels into Vermont with winds as high as 70 miles per hour in some locations, utility crews plan to wait out the most dangerous weather before making repairs.
That's according to Shana Louiselle, a spokesperson for Vermont's grid operator VELCO.
"We're anticipating severe wind over the night, and that's not going to be safe really for anyone to kind of be out in it," Louiselle said, adding that the wind is expected to die down by early morning. "We have no doubt those crews are going to be out working really hard to restore power after that — the more dangerous part of the storm has ended."
Louiselle reminded Vermonters they should never touch a downed powerline, and if they see one, to report it to their utility.
State officials warn of potentially hazardous road conditions tonight
The Vermont Agency of Transportation is warning drivers that this evening's storm may create hazardous road conditions.
The state will see 1 to 2 inches of snowfall per hour tonight, with the heaviest snowfall predicted to follow peak traffic hours, according to a press release.
The heavy, wet nature of the snow and the presence of strong wind gusts mean drivers should look out for downed trees, limbs, and wires.
The state says VTrans crews will be tending to roads throughout the storm.
This storm comes with 'rare' southeast winds
The storm bringing high winds and heavy, wet snow to Vermont this week has been on the radar for many days.
That's according to Jay Shafer, a meteorologist with Disaster Tech.
"This storm has had a strong signal for a long time, up to about eight or nine days ahead, the signal emerged we might have a Southeaster-type storm," Shafer said. "We've had several events like that that usually are higher-impact, because of the more rare wind direction."
Damaging winds will cause widespread power outages and may blow down trees across the region tonight. The highest wind gusts will be in the northern Adirondacks, Champlain Valley, western slopes of the Green Mountains and Northeast Kingdom#vtwx #nywx pic.twitter.com/uHl657szX7— NWS Burlington (@NWSBurlington) January 9, 2024
Among those events was the December 2022 winter storm Elliott, which included high winds, flooding, then a "flash-freeze" in Vermont.
"In terms of its size and potential magnitude, that storm produced about 1.6 million people without power in the eastern United States at the peak of the storm," Shafer said.
He added that this week's storm was comparable based on meteorological metrics.
"This storm, you could say, is going to have widespread impacts," Shafer said. "[W]hen you see a larger event like this spread out over a lot of eastern United States, there's going to be a need to restore a lot of places in the power grid."
Another similar storm is forecast for Saturday, he said.
Meals on Wheels watching weather for food delivery
Utility companies are not the only ones keeping a close eye on the snow and high winds expected in Vermont tonight.
Douglas Jones manages Meals on Wheels in Rutland. He says their drivers deliver an average of 1,400 meals a day across the state, and he’s always checking snow forecasts.
“I look at it constantly," Jones says. "Rutland is one thing. We go south, we go north… Right now we’re OK. But you never know. It all depends."
He says if the storm prevents drivers from delivering tomorrow, their clients should all have an emergency meal stored in their freezer as a back up.
Washington Electric Cooperative expecting widespread power outages
A major storm is expected to bring heavy, wet snow and high winds to the state tonight, and utilities are bracing for widespread power outages.
That includes Washington Electric Cooperative, which services largely rural communities around the Montpelier area.
Winds are projected to range from 50 to over 70 miles per hour there overnight into Wednesday morning — that's according to Louis Porter, the general manager.
"I can say with quite a bit of confidence, we’ll have a significant number of outages," Porter said. "Whether that’s 20% of our membership, or 50% of our membership, we won’t know until the storm hits."
The highest winds are predicted for the western side of the Green Mountains. A second storm is predicted to bring heavy winds to Vermont Friday night into Saturday.