CVPS: Full restoration of 37,500 outages statewide could take weeks

Contact: Christine Rivers (802) 742-2415 (pager)

For Immediate Release: Aug. 29, 2011 – 7:15 a.m. UPDATE

Hurricane Irene leaves devastation in her path
Because of road washouts, full restoration could take weeks
Army of crews stymied by washouts, high water, closed roads

The remnants of Hurricane Irene have moved out of Vermont, but not before washing dozens of utility poles and roads away and leaving Central Vermont Public Service with an army of workers unable to access thousands of customers in need.

CVPS says recovery will entail a monumental effort due to closed bridges and washouts not seen in generations. More than 55,000 customer outages resulted from the storm, with 37,500 still without service as of 7 a.m.

“We have a tremendous roster of workers to assist us, but this will be one of the most challenging recovery efforts any of us has ever lived through,” said Joe Kraus, senior vice president for engineering, operations and customer service.

Kraus, who started his career at CVPS in 1980, said hundreds of crews from as far away as Illinois, Missouri, Texas and Ontario would assist CVPS’s crews, but no one at the company has faced infrastructure damage like this before.

“We are in uncharted territory,” Kraus said. “In many places, we can’t even get to the damage. It is impossible to say how long it will take to restore power to all customers, but many areas are totally inaccessible, roads are gone, and in some cases, it could take weeks. In areas that we can get to, restoration will likely take days.”

Kraus said it was impossible to provide any kind of reliable restoration estimates at this time but customers should be prepared for extended outages.

“Until roads are rebuilt and bridges reopen, we will be unable to get into hundreds of neighborhoods and hamlets, particularly in central and southern Vermont,” Kraus said. “While we will work to restore service as quickly as possible, we urge customers to take every precaution to stay safe: stay away from downed power lines and anything in contact with them. Keep children and pets away.”

A half-dozen substations were submerged in flood waters. Each will have to be inspected in detail, and electric tests will be required in some cases before they can be put back into service.

Kraus said CVPS and other utilities would work closely with state emergency management officials to stay abreast of road openings and make repairs as quickly as possible.

On Sunday, many CVPS workers were stranded by rising waters. Some crews had to spend the night in local offices, and other workers in southern Vermont were invited to spend the night with customers after they were trapped by flooding.

“I’ve seen the most high-water flooding I’ve ever seen, and I hope I never see anything like this ever again,” Operations Supervisor Chris Gandin said.

Up-to-date outage numbers (by town) can be found at: http://www.cvps.com/CustomerService/outages/ and http://vtoutages.com/

CVPS offered several safety tips for coping with the outages:

STAY AWAY FROM DOWNED POWER LINES. Don’t touch or even go near downed wires! These wires can be energized and can cause serious injuries or death. If the line is blocking the road or in contact with a vehicle with people inside, call your local police or fire emergency number first. Then call CVPS. Instruct others to keep at least 50 feet away, and keep pets and livestock away as well.
Assume all objects touching the power line are also energized. Never attempt to remove trees or limbs from any utility lines! Notify CVPS of the situation.
If using a generator, read and follow the owner’s manual before starting the generator. 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.

Power outages, call 1-800-451-2877.

Additional safety tips can be found at: http://www.cvps.com/Safety/StormSafety.aspx

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:

Problems that present an imminent danger to life.
Failure at a key point on the system affecting thousands of customers, such as a transmission line (a main highway of the power system).
Critical health and public safety facilities.
Main distribution lines, which are smaller than transmission lines, but may serve hundreds of customers.
Single lines.
Single customers.
Cleanup work.

Up-to-date outage numbers (by town) can be found at: http://www.cvps.com/CustomerService/outages/ and http://vtoutages.com/

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