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Vermont Public’s weekly dose of all things environment.

Out There: More storm damage

It’s Friday, Jan. 12. Here’s what’s on deck:

  • The warmest year on record 
  • Preparing for landslides
  • Fishers (the animal)

But first,

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Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


Cleaning up from the storm

A powerline lays on a muddy street.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
The storm this week caused nearly 30,000 outages in Vermont at its peak early Wednesday morning, mostly in communities on the western slope of the Green Mountains and sections of the Northeast Kingdom. That’s after a storm in November caused over 35,000 outages at its peak. These types of damaging storms are becoming more common.

Scientists generally cannot attribute any one weather event to climate change. But winters are getting warmer and wetter in the Northeast, and those conditions produce weather events that are more likely to cause widespread power outages like recent storms that have pummeled the state, including the one this week. Here’s why these storms are more damaging to our power system:

Soggy ground: When the ground is frozen, strong winds don’t cause as much damage. But more thawing as temperatures rise and fall below freezing means trees are more likely to topple over – blocking roads, ensnaring power lines, and damaging property.

💧 Wet, heavy snow: At warmer temperatures the atmosphere can hold more humidity – and snow has a higher water content. A wet snowflake might be partially melted while falling, and its liquid edges make it stickier. That wet, sticky snow weighs down trees and powerlines.

⛷️ Less “chamber of commerce snow”: Dry, powdery snow that falls at colder temperatures doesn’t cause the same issues to the power grid. That’s the stuff that skiers love.

👷 Utilities say they’re better prepared to respond: Vermont utilities say they’ve invested in infrastructure improvements like putting lines underground, trimming trees, and “hardening” lines. They also say they’re faster at responding to storms because of better preplanning and more effective mutual aid systems to share resources.

In other news

🥵 Earth had its hottest year on record in 2023: So did several cities across the Northeast, including Burlington and St. Johnsbury since records began there in the late 1800s. It was the second hottest year in Vermont overall – shy by 0.1 degrees F. The state didn’t have an exceptionally warm summer, but temperatures were near or above normal for almost every month of the year, including a warm stretch in December that led to flooding from rain and snowmelt. Overnight lows were also considerably warmer than normal.

📛 82 calls about potential landslides: That’s what state officials received after the July storm, as Vermonters asked for help gauging the risk of a slide happening near their properties. Of those calls, 11 required same-day evacuations. Vermont Geological Survey staff say they’re not equipped to handle this volume of need, and the Agency of Natural Resources is asking state lawmakers to assemble a taskforce so they’re better equipped to respond to potential landslides in the future.

🪵 $5 million for loggers and saw mill operators: Lawmakers are proposing a plan to help the industry deal with the July floods and broader climate change impacts, along with workforce needs. That includes paying loggers to comply with water quality regulations and free safety training for people getting into the business.

🦫 Lawmakers have concerns about new trapping and coyote hunting rules: Some think the new rules don’t do what lawmakers asked for, and the Vermont Senate leader says he supports legislation that would take away the Fish and Wildlife Board’s ability to make rules like this. They’re a group of 14 volunteers, appointed by the governor.

In your backyard

A drawing of a small brown animal on all fours, standing on a tree branch.
Laura Nakasaka
Vermont Public

This fall, a hunter spotted a fisher eating an apple at an old orchard in the Green Mountain National Forest and took a very cute video.

Get out there

🕯️Snowshoe by torchlight: You can also walk or ski, depending on the conditions, at the Billings Farm trail in Woodstock tonight, Friday, Jan. 12. National Park rangers and farm staff will be around to answer questions about wildlife and natural history, and you can end the night with s’mores and hot drinks around a firepit. Wear a headlamp or bring a flashlight. $12 for adults.

🦋 Make your yard a great place for pollinators: Also tonight, the Tunbridge Public Library is hosting a talk Vermont Center for Ecostudies staff about how you can support insects throughout the year, from foraging to breeding and overwintering, along with advice for selecting plants and getting involved in community science. Friday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.

🐍🥾 Hike up Snake Mountain: SheJumps is hosting a winter hike in Vergennes on Saturday, Jan. 13 open to all experience levels. It’s a moderate hike of 4 miles roundtrip with about 900 feet of elevation gain. Organizers say they’ll take it slow and steady, with breaks as needed. Bring water, snacks, warm layers, waterproof shoes, and traction like microspikes. Meet at 10 a.m. at the trail parking lot.

🎣 A weekend of hunting and fishing experts: The Yankee Sportsman’s Classic is three days of exhibitors and presentations, like the basics of butchering deer, ice fishing tips, and hunting snowshoe hare. Staff and board members from the Fish and Wildlife Department will be available to answer questions, including about new trapping and hunting rules. Friday, Jan. 19 through Sunday, Jan. 21 at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction. $13 for adults.

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Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


Thank you for reading! Don’t hesitate to reach out, we'd love to hear from you. Just email us.

Credits: This week’s edition was put together by Lexi Krupp and edited by Kevin Trevellyan with lots of help from the Vermont Public team, including graphics by Laura Nakasaka and digital support from Sophie Stephens.

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