At the request of Gov. Peter Shumlin, Vermont emergency management officials today asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a damage assessment in the Champlain Valley and northern Vermont counties impacted by the on-going ice storm.
The state is applying in an attempt to secure federal public assistance to help cover the cost of cleanup and recovery from the storm.
"I am requesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency join State and Local teams to conduct a Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment in the Counties of Caledonia, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, and Orleans for Public Assistance," wrote Joe Flynn, Director of the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to FEMA's Acting Regional Administrator Paul F. Ford.
Flynn noted that rain, freezing rain, snow, icing conditions, and near zero temperatures have impacted Vermont since Dec. 20, creating power outages affecting 22,000 households -- about 75,000 Vermonters -- at its peak. In addition, Flynn said, the fluctuations in icing conditions and the repeated need to clear and remove debris caused multiple outages for some customers.
"This has been a real challenge for the utility crews because icy tree branches continue to fall and knock out power lines, making it difficult for the lines crews to keep the power on," said Gov. Shumlin. "It has also been a struggle for many Vermonters in these hard-hit areas, particularly in Franklin County and other northern Vermont communities, who are spending this holiday week without heat and electricity, often staying with friends and family."
The Governor said the state would continue to push until power has been restored to every customer. Although the number of outages dipped to under 500 earlier today, snowfall-laden trees knocked out power to additional households, with an estimated 1,440 homes without electricity as of late afternoon.
Flynn asked FEMA to send personnel beginning Jan. 2 to work with state and local teams to determine damage estimates. Depending upon final costs, Vermont could be eligible for federal assistance for some municipal and cooperative utility restoration costs, local debris clearance and removal costs, and other disaster caused infrastructure damage.