The storm that stole Christmas


BRANDON—On Thursday, December 22, just as the Christmas travel surge was about to get underway, a “polar vortex” came hurtling down from the arctic and plunged the eastern half of the U.S. into freezing misery.  Single-digit temperatures, howling winds, and merciless snow all combined to make Christmas 2022 decidedly less than merry for much of the country.

Accumulations of snow weren’t as severe here in Vermont as in other parts of the Northeast, but vicious winds knocked down power lines throughout the state, cutting off electricity to thousands of Vermonters.  Scores of households in the Brandon/Pittsford area were left without power during a brutal cold snap.  Many holiday gatherings were cancelled or postponed because of the outages and road conditions.

David Atherton, Brandon town manager and emergency management director, made the call on Friday to open the Brandon Town Hall as a warming shelter for those whose homes were too frigid to remain in.  “Normally we would’ve used Neshobe [Elementary School in Forestdale],” said Atherton. “But the weather was so bad that asking the designated employee to drive from Cornwall to open up the school just didn’t make sense.  Town Hall still had electricity and heat and we could open it ourselves.”

While downtown Brandon did not suffer prolonged outages, many other neighborhoods in the area did lose power for extended periods.  Some homes didn’t have electricity from Thursday night until the following Monday.  Green Mountain Power had crews working around the clock to restore service as quickly as possible.  Over Christmas weekend, there were multiple posts on Front Porch Forum thanking GMP for its immediate response during extremely challenging conditions.  Many in the area shared and praised a social media post from Kamuda’s Market of Pittsford regarding a request they’d received from GMP to provide food to those in need during the outages.

David Atherton noted, however, that Vermonters are a hardy lot and anticipate winter outages. Many people have generators and/or wood stoves as backups. “Generators are the best investment,” he said.  In fact, the warming station set up at the Town Hall ended up serving only a handful of people because so many affected homes already had generators.  

“We lost power temporarily, but our generators came on and we were able to continue operations,” said Dianne Harvey, store manager at Hannaford in Brandon. “We didn’t lose any food, but the Hannaford in Middlebury had to bring in trucks to remove food from their refrigerated cases.”

Jeff Biasuzzi, Brandon zoning administrator, cautioned that generators are not without problems, though.  They can produce power surges that can overwhelm household appliances and cause them to fail.  They’re also expensive to run, burning $4 or $5 worth of gas per hour.

In the event of similar storms, Atherton suggests that you make sure your phones and computers are fully charged, that you notify GMP immediately if you experience an outage, that you have nonperishable food on hand, that you maintain road access to your home, and that you check on your neighbors. Vermont Emergency Management puts out a guidebook to “Family Emergency Preparedness” that should be available at your Town Office.

By Wednesday, December 28, Green Mountain Power’s website indicated that only 6 customers were still without electricity in the entire state.  Life seemed back to normal.  With Christmas 2022 behind them, folks were able to regroup for New Year’s Eve.  By January 1, temperatures had risen and the snow had all but melted, leaving nary a trace of the storm that stole Christmas.

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