About 6,000 still without power in Vermont

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BERLIN, Vt. (AP) — About 6,000 customers were still without power in Vermont on Saturday evening, three days after a brutal storm pounded the state with heavy, wet snow and caused the worst outages in years.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and the head of the Vermont Electric Cooperative surveyed power line and tree damage by air as line crews continued to restore service to those still in the dark from outages that, at their peak, affected some 100,000 customers. Restoring power to everyone could take at least the weekend, officials said.

"It was an extremely difficult storm," said Shumlin, who said 7 to 8 inches of snow was visible from the air encasing power lines in some spots. Parts of Vermont received more than a foot of snow Tuesday and Wednesday, including 19.5 inches in Orwell.

The helicopter tour covered Stowe, Starksboro, Richmond and Hinesburg — which Shumlin said was hit hard. Green Mountain Power — the state's largest utility — said the outages are worse than those caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 or a serious 1998 ice storm.

More than 1,000 people are working to clear lines, Shumlin said.

And they're enduring tough conditions. One line crew hiked through a snowy woods with 80 pounds of equipment to repair a line, which took several hours, only to have to return twice for breaks in similar spots, said GMP spokeswoman Kristin Carlson.

Washington Electric Cooperative had 1,700 members still without power on Saturday and said it would be through the weekend or even longer before the service is restored.

"We are encouraging people to reach out to friends and family with power for shelter," said general manager Patricia Richards. They can also call 211 or the Red Cross if they have need for shelter, officials said.

Utilities reminded Vermonters not to touch any power lines or try to remove trees from them. They hope that sunshine will help to melt some of the snow weighing down trees and lines.

"So Mother Nature just needs to give us a break at this point," said Carlson. "It would great to see some more sunshine and help get the load off of the lines and off the branches so that we can start to see some restoration. But this really ranks up there as one of the worst storms we've ever seen."

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