Storm strikes area
By Darren Marcy
Staff Writer | July 04,2014
A large tree crashed into an apartment building, above, on Washington Street in Rutland during the intense storm Thursday evening. At right, Rutland Fire Chief Robert Schlachter checks on a barrier that inflates when the water rises to its level. The boom was laid in front of the downtown parking deck during the storm.
A fierce thunderstorm pounded the Rutland region early Thursday evening with strong winds and a torrential downpour knocking out power to thousands. The storm also pelted the area with another round of damaging hail.
The storm was so intense it knocked a massive tree into an apartment building in Rutland, severely damaging it.
Scott Whittier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington, said parts of Rutland County took the brunt of the storm.
Poultney sustained so much damage that the town canceled all its Independence Day festivities scheduled for today, said Town Manager Jonas Rosenthal.
“It’s a mess; we have no power,” Rosenthal said. “Everything is canceled.”
“(The storm) brought two rounds of heavy thunderstorms right across Rutland,” Whittier said. “It ended up producing hail of 1 inch and greater in Rutland and in some of the immediate suburbs.”
He estimated wind gusts “at a minimum of 60 to 70 mph.”
The Poultney area was hit particularly hard with trees down, utility poles snapped and thousands without power.
Just after 8 p.m., Vermont State Police reported Route 30 impassable through the entire town of Poultney because of trees and wires down. Other roads were also blocked.
Some structures were damaged as well, with at least one chimney toppled at Dr. Mike Scovner’s office on Main Street in Poultney.
Green Mountain Power reported thousands of outages.
GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said Poultney, where wind gusts in excess of 70 mph were reported, was the hardest hit.
“We’ve got multiple poles down, wires down,” she said at about 7:30 p.m. “There’s a lot going on in Poultney.”
At 9:30 p.m. the utility reported 9,185 customers without power, more than 3,700 of which were in Rutland County. Bennington County had more than 2,300 outages and more than 1,600 customers lost power in Windham County.
Hundreds of the outages were reported in West Rutland and Rutland City.
“Rutland was damaged by the same storm cell coming through, but to a lesser extent,” she said.
Rutland Fire Chief Robert Schlachter said his crews were kept hopping, but all the calls ended up being trees into wires. Some resulted in small fires but no structure fires were reported.
One large tree broke in two places and fell on an apartment building at the corner of Nickwackett and Washington street.
The city also put out its water barrier across the front of the downtown parking deck, which prevented water from flowing down into the facility.
The most widespread impacts were the power failures.
Schnure said GMP had 55 of its own two-person line crews out, along with 32 contract line crews and 50 contract tree crews. She said further outages were possible as the storm system moved through the state.
The utility said it would not have power restored to everyone until the end of today.
Whittier said the heavy rainfall and thunderstorms were widespread across south central Vermont with the most damaging winds and large hail “confined basically from Poultney through Rutland and getting into portions of western Windsor County.”
Whittier said there were thunderstorms in the northern part of the state, but not as severe.
The genesis for the latest storm can be traced to several days of humid weather.
“We’ve been in this humid air mass for the last three or four days (and) we’re finally getting a disturbance that came through New York and has lifted across Vermont,” Whittier said.
Reporters Bruce Edwards and Gordon Dritschilo contributed to this story.