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Winter Storm Outage Could Last Through Weekend

  • Bonnie Munday removes a branch from her yard after a tree was blown down onto her roof yesterday. The tree made a hole in the roof and took power lines down. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Bonnie Munday removes a branch from her yard after a tree was blown down onto her roof yesterday. The tree made a hole in the roof and took power lines down. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Brian and Bonnie Munday work on repairing the hole in the roof of their Norwich home, after a tree fell onto it due to high winds. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Brian and Bonnie Munday work on repairing the hole in the roof of their Norwich home, after a tree fell onto it due to high winds. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bonnie Munday removes a branch from her yard after a tree was blown down onto her roof yesterday. The tree made a hole in the roof and took power lines down. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Brian and Bonnie Munday work on repairing the hole in the roof of their Norwich home, after a tree fell onto it due to high winds. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

A winter storm that smacked the western side of Vermont with heavy gusts of wind and touched on the Upper Valley could lead to power outages that last until Monday, according to Green Mountain Power.

“Winds from this storm are much stronger than what we experienced with Super Storm Sandy and the damage is more intense,” spokesman Jeremy Baker said in a statement. “It may be that restoration for some customers will continue into Christmas Eve, or even later, as we are finding the damage to be extreme.”

The storm made its presence felt in the Upper Valley yesterday too, as several towns experienced downed trees and power lines due to the strong gusts and heavy rain.

By 5 p.m., 31,946 Green Mountain Power customers had lost power, though about half of them had been restored, according to the company. At the same time, the Public Service of New Hampshire was reporting about 9,000 outages on its web site.

As of late afternoon yesterday, the company’s online outage map was speckled, with more areas of the Granite State unaffected than affected. But an area along the Connecticut River from Plainfield through Unity was still notably touched.

“The Upper Valley may be seeing the worst of it, unfortunately,” said Martin Murray, a spokesman for the power company.

Murray said that the company is sending most of its work crews to the Claremont area to quickly get working on repairing downed lines.

“We do have quite a few crews working in the city, and they’re cleaning up the best that they can,” said Claremont Fire Capt. Tim Bergeron.

Claremont had by far the greatest number of outages in a stretch of towns along the river, with as many as 1,481 powerless customers in the afternoon. Bergeron said that eight roads in the city had been closed due to downed power lines, and tree branches were falling as well.

He said that, by about 3:45 p.m., the fire department had received 17 calls related to the wind.

As for when everything is going to get back to normal?

“I wouldn’t even dare make a guess on that,” he said.

Meanwhile, although digital push pins on the Green Mountain Power outage map were mostly concentrated toward the western side of Vermont, Windsor had experienced 1,399 outages by the afternoon, the map showed.

A tree on County Road in Windsor fell in the early afternoon, taking down power lines with it, said Lt. Kelly Young, from the town’s fire department.

Traffic had to be rerouted until the power company arrived, he said, but an all-clear was given at around 2:30 p.m.

Even though that was the biggest issue wrought by the wind yesterday in Windsor, Young said he wasn’t sure it would be the last.

“The power company is saying the worst is still southwest of us,” Young said. “Hopefully it’ll go around us.”

Such a strong, windy winter storm isn’t terribly common, said Andy Nash, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“This kind of intensity of a storm we’ll get maybe once every couple of years,” he said. “The strongest winds that we had are on the western side of the Green Mountains.”

On top of Mount Mansfield, he said, a gust of wind was recorded that hit 125 miles per hour. In western Vermont, gusts hit 70 miles per hour. In Lebanon, he said, gusts were recorded, at their highest, between 35 and 40 miles per hour.

But the worst of the wind is over, Nash said, and the next couple of days will simply be cloudy with a chance of light snow. As of yesterday afternoon, the center of the storm was in the southern portion of New York, and it would make its way northeast over the next couple of days, he said. The Upper Valley will see considerably lighter snow compared to other regions in the Twin States, he said, and this storm will move past the area entirely by tomorrow.

But another, weaker storm system is headed this way right now, Nash said, which could hit the area on either Monday or Christmas Day.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.