Tired utility crews are making steady progress today in the wake of a hard-hitting one-two-punch storm system that caused 88,000 Central Vermont Public Service customer outages. As of 5 p.m., 8,500 customer outages remained, but storm recovery is likely to extend through the weekend into Monday. Across the Northeast, nearly 750,000 customers lost service Thursday night and Friday morning as high winds tore through the region.“This storm recovery will be remembered as one of the most complicated in our history,” spokeswoman Christine Rivers said. “We’ve had two back-to-back major storms in the span of a few days, and Albany National Weather Service forecasters have predicted additional snow in southern Vermont through Saturday night. Each wave would have been a challenge by itself. Together the first two waves caused more customer outages than any storm in our history.”Joe Kraus, senior vice president for engineering, operations and customer service, said employees and contractors, many working 18-hour shifts, are weary, but have devoted themselves to the effort. “There is an awful lot of determination in the people working this storm,” Kraus said. “Given the weather Thursday night, I came in this morning expecting to find a downtrodden workforce, but everyone was upbeat, focused and determined to help our customers.”Kraus, a 28-year CVPS veteran, said customers have been helpful and supportive throughout the recovery. “We know it’s a hardship for our customers, and we appreciate how positive they’ve remained when talking with employees,” Kraus said. “That’s like fuel in the tank for people who are stretching to get the job done.”High winds Thursday night and Friday morning knocked down trees, broke poles and tore down power lines. Widespread outages occurred across the state, with Addison Bennington, Orange, Rutland, Windham and Windsor counties hardest hit.Restoration is expected to be complete in Addison, Chittenden and Franklin counties tonight. Caledonia County should be cleaned up by Saturday. Recovery will last through the weekend, possibly into Monday, in parts of Bennington, Rutland, Orange, Windham and Windsor counties. Forecasters are predicting an additional 6 to 20 inches of snow in southern Vermont through Saturday night, which could slow progress, and potentially produce additional outages.“We will restore service to lot of customers tonight and Saturday, but some repairs will take longer,” Rivers said. “There are hundreds of separate problems to address.”Rivers said advanced planning was critical to the storm response, which includes dozens of outside crews, many brought in before the storm even hit.The 2007 Nor’icane, a wind event similar to last night’s, caused 68,000 customer outages, and recovery efforts totaled more than $5 million. “While a final estimate is not yet available for this storm, the costs will no doubt be measured in millions,” Rivers said.As part of the restoration effort, CVPS:Brought in 83 outside two-person line crews and support staff from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and Ontario, along with 15 tree crews, and other Vermont contract crews. An additional 10 crews from Hydro-One in Ontario are also on the way for Saturday.Provided midday meals for workers to take when they went out in the morning, to minimize down time.Returned numerous CVPS retirees to work to assist in the recovery effort.Coordinated efforts with Vermont Emergency Management and other utilities.Moved dozens of CVPS employees from areas like HR and information systems into storm support roles.CVPS offered several safety tips for coping with the outages:· Treat any downed line as if it is live, even if appears to have been down for a long period of time. REPORT the line to your local utility and fire department, stay at least 30 feet away from the line, and keep children and pets away as well.· If using a generator, read and follow the owner’s manual before starting the generator. Never operate a generator inside any structure or near a structure. Use a transfer switch to ensure electricity is not accidentally fed onto a line where line crews must work.· Keep freezers and refrigerators closed as much as possible to prevent food spoilage.If power goes out, turn off all electrical appliances except one light so you’ll know when service returns. Then, turn equipment back on slowly.Source: Central Vermont Public Service. 2.26.2010.