Storm response reviewed in Rockingham

Rockingham, Vt.

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – Municipal Manager Scott Pickup commended Justin Mason, and said the town and GMP worked well by “marrying crews.” Vice President of Field Operations Mike Burke said he was glad Rockingham works well, and speaks highly of Mason; local representation is a huge part of their success.

Tiana Smith, Head of Electrification and Sustainability at GMP, explained the steps that GMP was taking toward resiliency and future storm management. She said they were utilizing storm hardening measures, and had the benefit of local response from Storm Lead Mason in Westminster, and Operations Supervisor David Ward in Springfield.

Burke said that, since December, there have been four major storms, and this was one of the top four worst ever storms in history with regard to outages and damage. He said they heard snow predictions of 12-18 inches, and Rockingham received 36 inches. He said if this storm had been rain, it would have been similar to Hurricane Irene levels, and severe weather patterns indicate the Northeast receives the highest precipitation in the North Atlantic region.

Burke explained the mitigation steps being taken, including spacer cables on main lines to protect the line if a tree falls, undergrounding lines in rural areas, and encouraging home installation of so-called “power walls,” used for storage during heavy outages. Individuals would pay a monthly fee to cover the costs of the power wall.

Board member Rick Cowan asked how long the power walls typically last. Burke said he received reports of up to eight days of power with critical use of appliances.

Smith said during this storm, GMP continued outreach to towns before, during, and after the storm, coordinating with Emergency Services for residents with critical care needs. She explained they worked with EMS to check on those that might need assistance, and customers on the critical care list.

Board member Bonnie North asked how residents could get on the critical care list. GMP encourages residents to add themselves or a family member to the critical care list, if they require an electric-powered medical device, by calling GMP at 888-835-4672.

Board Chair Peter Golec asked why Bellows Falls was out of power for 12 hours, when an average power outage for the village lasts less than two hours. Burke said the reason was that two transmission lines went down that feed the Bellows Falls substation. He said the transmission lines must be repaired or replaced before getting people back online, and that when they had repaired the first one, which had been damaged by a falling tree, another went down.

Burke explained why so many customers were without power for up to five days, giving the following example: if residents were 12 miles from the substations, transmission lines were repaired first, and then each mile of line between. He said because of the heavy snowfall and waist-deep snow, tasks which normally take 15 minutes were taking up to two hours.

Smith explained that for the first two days they focused on restoration, keeping the roads clear and hazards mitigated.

Ward recommended contacting himself or Mason for ideas and suggestions. He said, “town insight is appreciated.”

The Rockingham Local Emergency Management Plan and State Hazard Mitigation Plan are in the process of an update. Residents interested in providing input to the plan should contact

The Rockingham Selectboard meetings are on the first and third Tuesdays of every month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House, and also available by Zoom.



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