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High Winds Damage Trees and Buildings at Summer Camp on Lake Fairlee

  • Matt Guay, left, and Ben Cole of the Aloha Foundation clean up on Feb. 27, 2017 after powerful winds tore a metal roof and a three-sided wrap-around porch off the assembly hall at Aloha Hive in West Fairlee, Vt. on Saturday night. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Geoffery Mallett tosses materials to Ben Cole while working on the assembly hall at Aloha Hive in West Fairlee, Vt., on Feb. 27, 2017. Strong winds Saturday night blew the standing seam roof and three sided porch off the building. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jeff Flye, of Corinth, Vt., cleans a yard of tree branches in West Fairlee, Vt., on Feb. 27, 2017. Strong winds damaged buildings and took numerous trees down in the area. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, February 27, 2017

West Fairlee — Strong winds tore across Lake Fairlee and ripped up roofs, trees and power lines Saturday night, scattering ice shanties on the lake and leaving homeowners to clean up the damage on Monday.

Among the hardest hit property owners was the Aloha Foundation, which runs the Aloha Hive summer camp off Route 244 on the northern edge of Lake Fairlee.

“We had a lot of trees downed,” Aloha Executive Director Chris Overtree said. “We had some roofs from porches taken clean off. We had some of the tin standing-seam roofs get peeled back off of the roof itself.”

Chuck McGill, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service station in Burlington, said the federal agency issued a statement this past weekend warning of winds up to 50 mph, but said precise data on Lake Fairlee speeds weren’t available.

He added that contrary to the impressions of some residents, a tornado had “absolutely not” passed through.

Out on Lake Fairlee on Monday afternoon, at least two ice shanties still were on their sides and several more had been pulled to the shore.

Dave Bergholm, an ice fisherman who lives on Route 244, said he weathered the worst of the storm at home.

Around 8 p.m. on Saturday, he said, “we heard a whooshing sound,” and then opened the door to howling winds and horizontal rain. An awning on the house was flapping up and down.

Bergholm went out to the lake the next day to find that his shanty, one of the largest, had come off its blocks and moved about 10 feet.

Along the road later on Monday, workers were still cleaning up the mess at the Aloha Hive. Splintered tree trunks and branches were strewn about, and a piece of metal roofing clung to the side of a basketball court fence, where it had lodged during the storm.

A few hundred yards up the shoreline, private camps looked much the same.

On Idle Pine Drive, a waterfront road near the Treasure Island recreational facility, a 50-foot tree leaned at a 45-degree angle, cracked at the base.

A utility van arrived around 3 p.m. to repair phone lines that had been downed.

A property owner there declined to comment, saying he had only just arrived to assess the damage to his land.

Although the damage to the Hive camp was extensive, Aloha had plans in place to deal with the damage and the camp will open on schedule this summer, Overtree said.

“We’re feeling pretty resilient and pretty grateful that no one was hurt,” he said, “but pleased to have this little test to know that our emergency plans would have done what was necessary to keep people safe if people were around.”

Vermont State Police troopers responded to at least one report of downed trees in a roadway, a dispatcher said Monday.

The Saturday night storm left a trail of wreckage in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, even destroying a few houses, according to a Monday report from New England Cable News.

In Holderness and Plymouth, N.H., an ice dam on the Pemigewasset River caused flooding in student parking lots at Plymouth State University and the closing of a few businesses. In Fairlee, however, an employee at the nearby Lake Morey Resort said there had been no damage to that facility.

Overtree, the Aloha Foundation’s executive director, speculated that his organization’s camp had received the most damage because it juts out into Lake Fairlee. He said it wasn’t possible to estimate the cost of repairs until workers clear more of the wreckage away.

Overtree said that camp’s structures were built to withstand severe weather and that the storm hadn’t “penetrated” any of the buildings’ shells. He also praised Aloha’s team and grounds workers for the speed at which they responded to the incident.

“We were there with our jaws hanging (on Sunday), but the very next day we were out clearing trees and getting back to business,” he said.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or at 603-727-3242.