D > Rain And Wind Cause Damage, Outages

Rain And Wind Cause Damage, Outages

by Willow Lanpher

The first big storm that blew through the area Monday afternoon didn't last long, but it did a lot of damage in many area towns.

"It was one of those strong local storms. If you're under it, you get clobbered," said senior curator Howard Reed of the Fairbanks Museum, Monday evening.

Sally and Elliott Crocker were sitting on their front porch in St. Johnsbury when the storm hit. Like many others, the Crockers got clobbered.

"We're just like the luckiest people on earth," said Sally Crocker, Monday, from her front porch as a contractor cut up the 150-year-old tree that had fallen on her roof.

Not one pane of glass broke and no one was hurt, but the roof of the Crocker home on Underclyffe Road will need some repair.

Jack Crowther, spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service Corp., said the Northeast Kingdom in general, and St. Johnsbury in particular, was the hardest hit area of the state in numbers of customers in the dark.

Counting those who already had their power turned back on, Crowther reported there were a total of between 7,000 and 8,000 customers without power on Monday. This morning, fewer than 1,000 customers are still in the dark, with most expected to be back on line by late this afternoon.

"We're expecting help from line crews from Rutland, St. Albans and possibly the Royalton office," he said Monday.

For more than an hour late Monday afternoon, St. Johnsbury firefighters scrambled between eight homes and businesses around town to tend to trees downed on live wires.

Even the stores at Green Mountain Mall in St. Johnsbury Center - Butson's was the exception - were forced to close early because of loss of electricity. At 4:30, customers and employees stood outside the mall in small clusters, waiting for the power to come back on. At 8 p.m., it was still dark, as was everything from the Passumpsic Bank branch to the north on Route 5.

A downed CVPS transmission line in St. Johnsbury caused 5,000 Lyndonville Electric Department customers in 11 towns to lose power as well.

Reed said the wind gusts hit 50 mph in St. Johnsbury and the town accumulated one-third of an inch of rain. Winds of 45 mph were clocked in Danville, a town still recovering from flooding that occurred two weeks ago today. Reed said they received around two-thirds an inch of rain.

"It hit us hard and hit us real quick," said road foreman Reginald Guertin.

Reed explained that thunderstorms don't usually last more than 20 minutes because they use up so much energy in the atmosphere. He said storms that last longer are successive thunderstorms hitting one after the other.

As of Monday night all the town roads in Danville were open but Guertin said there was still some work to be done in the morning.

"We had numerous trees down," he said Monday night. "The power is still out in some places."

Bradford Fire Chief Daniel A. Perry III said hail the size of golf balls and possibly larger was reported in Bradford. He said the hail was so big he ducked when it hit his windshield.

"I never heard it hit quite that hard before," he said.

Emergency Management Coordinator Gary Moore said it wasn't just trees and power lines being damaged by the wind - "It's snapping off (utility) poles," he said.

Though most of the town was without power, it was intentional. Moore said the power was shut down because a woman was trapped in her car under fallen power lines. After the electricity was turned off, she was rescued safely and her car was driven from the scene.

As of Monday night, Moore said, there were no injuries that he was aware of due to the storm.

Though Perry said no one can confirm seeing a tornado, the trees were flattened in what looked like a path in some places.

According to meteorologist Mark Breen at the Fairbanks Museum's weather center in St. Johnsbury, although there was a lot of wind damage, it is unlikely there were any tornadoes in the area. Radar now in use almost always indicates the presence of a tornado, he said, and none were indicated yesterday. He did point out that the winds associated with large thunderstorms can gust up to 90 mph.

The top of a tree on Anne Cosgrove's front lawn on Main Street in St. Johnsbury was snapped off in the wind. Cosgrove was getting her dogs into the house when she heard the tree crack and fall to the ground.

She said the rain beat down almost horizontally in the wind that came from all directions, similar to a tornado, twisting the top of the tree around. She said the tree was 10 to 15 years old and was planted by St. Johnsbury's beautification committee to replace dying elms.

The weather reports were similar in Waterford. Waterford Fire Chief Robert Payeur said Monday night that there was only one spot that the fire department was concerned about. He said the town crews had already cleaned up a number of fallen trees.

The Peacham Fire Department also responded to Ha'penny Road where trees came down on lines.

Washington Electric Cooperative, which serves Cabot and the Joe's Pond area of West Danville, reported 300-400 customers still without power this morning.

Breen said today's warm and muggy weather will lend itself to another setup for thunderstorms later on, although we may be spared somewhat because there is slightly less heat to work with. He said anyone who works outdoors should keep a close eye on the sky late this afternoon and early evening.

Reporter Gail P. Montany contributed to this story.

Copyright 1997

The Caledonian-Record



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