ST. ALBANS — Warm weather over the weekend finally melted the ice from trees and lines, but left pockets of ice remaining, causing sporadic outages throughout the weekend.
Utility crews have been struggling to restore power to customers since an ice storm hit the region on Dec. 21 and 22, coating trees and power lines.
“We did see melting in some area, but not all,” said Liz Gamache, spokesperson for Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC).
The storm and its aftermath of broken power lines has cost VEC and other utilities heavily. “This is the most expensive storm in our history,” said Gamache, with preliminary costs for VEC estimated at $6.5 million and still rising.
There are pockets of ice remaining in areas from Underhill north to the Canadian border. Trees and lines in those areas continue to fall, causing outages in Bakersfield, Berkshire, Enosburgh, Fairfax, Fairfield, Fletcher, Montgomery and Richford.
Although VEC crews restored power to thousands of customers on Sunday, there were still more than 400 without power as of 8:30 this morning.
Crews clean up one downed tree and another falls, said Gamache.
“In these areas we’ve been very aggressive with tree trimming,” said Gamache. The company has 30- to 50-foot rights of way on either side of its lines, but trees are falling from outside that perimeter and taking down wires, she explained.
Heavy snow predicted for the weekend remained in the center of the state. “That fortunately gave us a break,” said Gamache.
That heavy snow was not so fortunate for mid-state residents. More than 11,000 of them lost power Sunday. The majority of residents had had their power restored by press time today, however.
However, temperatures are expected to drop into the single digits this afternoon as a cold front moves into the region and remain there for several days.
When that front leaves at the end of the week, there is potential for more snow, according to Gamache.
“It’s really an extraordinary set of weather circumstances right now,” she said.
Because VEC is a cooperative it is eligible for federal emergency assistance, should the storm be deemed severe enough. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will arrive on Thursday to begin assessing the damage.
Municipal utilities, such as the one operated by Enosburg Falls, also may qualify for assistance.
Enosburg Falls, too, was heavily hit by the storm, 800 customers, nearly half of the utility’s customer base, initially losing power. Crews were brought in from New York, Massachusetts and other parts of Vermont to assist with the cleanup.
As of press time, the Vermont Outage Web site indicated that the Enosburg Falls utility had five separate outages.