By MADELINE HUGHES
Friday’s intense storm caused havoc for evening commuters as rain, hail and high winds ripped through Shelburne causing zero-visibility driving conditions.
Emergency responders were called into action to handle trees blocking roads and downed power lines in multiple locations overnight into Saturday.
Conditions deteriorated just before 7 p.m. Friday. Police closed Route 7 from about 7:15 p.m. to 2 a.m. while crews cleared trees from the road. Police diverted traffic onto Webster Road, Irish Hill, Falls Road and Spear Street depending on the time of night because of fallen trees blocking those roads as well, according to Shelburne Police Officer Bob Lake.
Power lines were down on Webster Road, Falls Road and Route 7, he added.
“The storm was fairly localized within a quarter mile,” Lake said. “It was a busy Friday night with a steady stream of traffic for about two hours.”
As Shelburne police diverted traffic, volunteers from Shelburne, Charlotte and Hinesburg fire and rescue squads went to work removing debris from roads and powerlines.
In some cases, new damage was happening as responders were headed to sites to help.
As Rob Mullin, Charlotte Fire and Rescue assistant chief, was headed to remove a tree down in front of Shelburne Museum, he and his partner were stopped in front of Vermont Teddy Bear because of another tree blocking Route 7.
“We started to cut that tree up. It was raining and the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t see (my partner) four feet away from me,” Mullin said. “And after we cleared that tree the hail started, and it was raining so hard we couldn’t see anything.”
Ferrisburgh Fire and Rescue covered for Charlotte during the storm, Mullin said, and there were no calls in Charlotte. Nine Charlotte volunteers worked in Shelburne until just after 11 p.m. when they were greeted with food by the Charlotte Ladies Auxiliary, Mullin said.
Hinesburg sent one truck to help out in Shelburne at the end of the storm, Fire Chief Al Barber said. Hinesburg also was quiet with no calls from Hinesburg residents because of storm damage, he added.
Green Mountain Power worked overnight to restore power to over 32,000 customers in the region, leaving about 10,000 customers without power Saturday morning, said Kristin Kelly, the spokesperson for Green Mountain Power.
Vermont Electric Cooperative was also still at work Sunday to restore the last 1,000 customers to service. A company news release said outages knocked out power to nearly 19,000 customers or half of its membership.
On Sunday morning the utility said the storm had knocked out power to approximately 52,000 in all with about 3,000 still out of service. Crews were expected to restore power to all customers by the end of Sunday, the company said in an online update.
Shelburne Museum closed Saturday to clean up debris and damage on its grounds. No buildings were significantly damaged, a groundsman confirmed.
Damage throughout Shelburne was being assessed Saturday. Interim Town Manager Lee Krohn said he was thankful to see many trees falling away from homes.
The widespread damage to trees ironically happened on the eve of Shelburne’s Arbor Day celebration. On Saturday afternoon, members of the Shelburne Tree Advisory Committee gathered to mark the occasion by planting five Korean maples on the village green. They also talked about the devastating effects of the storm the night before.
Ensuring trees are healthy is part of the tree committee’s job as it worked to have Shelburne designated as a Tree City USA town. Committee members said they will continue doing outreach to help people maintain healthy trees that can survive future storms.