Special: Winter Storm Elliott coverage and letter to members from GM Louis Porter

Coop CurrentsCoop News

Dear Fellow Members of Washington Electric Cooperative,

I want to thank you for your patience during the recent outage, for caring for your neighbors, and for the encouragement and kindness you showed WEC staff.

WEC has recovered from experiencing one of its most destructive storms in recent history. At the start of our restoration efforts, 5,700 members were without power – in the midst of winter and during the Christmas holiday. While there have been major storms that left more WEC members without power, we can not remember one that cost more money (just under $1 million at current estimates) or that resulted in more broken poles (38 so far).

Our lineworkers did extraordinary work, over many days of 18 hour shifts, to restore power to members. They were helped by many crews from other utilities, for which we are grateful.

WEC confronted a number of unprecedented issues in this storm. Several employees instrumental to overseeing the storm response were down with COVID, and several lineworkers experienced injury and accident in the course of service. The national call center that helps us manage our members’ phones calls and our outage messaging became overwhelmed due to the storm’s national impact. Partly because of this, our regular communication updates to our members suffered as the lines were getting restored.

By the end of Thursday, just shy of a week after the storm, all members had their power restored. Clean up and post-storm repairs continue. We will be working through the impacts to WEC finances and supply inventory for even longer.

The challenges thrust on us by this storm gave us plenty to learn from and improve on before the next storms, which we know will come. I am proud of the dedication of all WEC employees and those helping us, and appreciative of the sensibleness and generosity of most WEC members, who prepared for the storm and persevered through it while helping others.

Thank you again,

Louis Porter
General Manager, Washington Electric Co-op

WEC in the news: Regional reporting on Winter Storm Elliott’s impact on the Co-op

VTDigger.org: “During what may have been the most expensive storm on record for Washington Electric, the cooperative’s small model — it employs only 14 full-time line workers — struggled with the unwieldy task of restoring power to thousands of homes in dangerous conditions across particularly challenging terrain in more than 40 towns.”

“Powerless: In a record storm, a small electric cooperative struggled to turn on the lights” Emma Cotton, photos by Glenn Russell, Jan. 5, 2023

Montpelier Bridge: In this photo essay, photographer and WEC member John Lazenby wrote, “The holes where the original poles stood had to be re-dug, new poles installed and squared up, power lines spliced back together, and hardware transferred from the old poles to the new ones once they were up and straight. Multiply that process by the miles of lines around central Vermont to get an idea of the work needed to restore power.”

“The Christmas Power Outage of 2022: Behind the Scenes” John Lazenby, Jan. 11, 2023

Earlier: “Washington County has the most power outages in the state with thousands out of power as of 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 24. And the end may not be near.”

“Washington County Hardest Hit By Storm – Some Power Outages Could Last Until Dec. 27” Carla Occaso, Dec. 24, 2022

WCAX: With 10% of Co-op members still without power five days after the storm, reporter Katharine Huntley interviewed Louis Porter and member Robert Brown, whose neighbors helped his family get a generator going on Christmas Day.

“Power still out for many Washington Electric Co-op customers 5 days later” Katharine Huntley, Dec. 27, 2022

NECN/NBC10 Boston: Reporter Jack Thurston interviewed members Jamie Bohn and Anne LaBrusciano as well as GM Louis Porter. “We feel so thankful,” Bohn said of the line workers and tree removal crews — as well as others who assisted people throughout the power outages. “They’ve been out for days and days, leaving their families behind in really cold weather and tough, tough conditions.”

“Power Restoration Work Could Stretch Into Friday, Vt. Utility Says,” Jack Thurston, Dec. 27, 2022

News & Citizen: Roundup of how the winter storm impacted Central Vermont utilities in number and duration of outages, including VEC, Morrisville Water & Light, Stowe, WEC, Hardwick, Hyde Park, and Johnson.

“Holiday storm: Power goes off across county” Tommy Gardner, Jan. 5, 2023

WDEV Radio Vermont: On Vermont Viewpoint, guest host and WEC member Kevin Ellis interviewed Louis Porter about the winter storm and power restoration.

Vermont Viewpoint, Jan. 9, 2023

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