Storms Put N.H. in State of Emergency

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MANCHESTER, N.H. --

 

Gov. John Lynch declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire after a violent storm knocked power out to more than 300,000 utility customers and crews worked feverishly to clear roads of fallen trees.

 

Early on, officials compared the storm that slammed the Granite State Thursday night and early Friday morning to the devastating ice storm of 2008.

Trees were uprooted, branches fell on power lines and roads were impassible from either flooding or debris. The high winds fanned a fire at Hampton Beach that wiped out an entire block, burning landmark businesses to the ground, including the Surf Hotel

 

Utility officials said residents without power should expect to be without service for up to a week.

"This is not a one-day event. This could easily be multiple days, even a week, as far as restoration goes," said Chris Pope, director of New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Public Service of New Hampshire said the Seacoast and southern areas of the state appeared to have been hardest hit by the storm.

 

Utilities said they were working furiously to restore power in the state and had called crews in from New York, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Finding extra crews has been a challenge, however, as more than 700,000 outages have been reported in New England and New York, tying up crews in those states, according to PSNH.

While customers were getting anxious, Martin Murray, spokesman for PSNH, said the company has a priority system.

"We have to look for the jobs that will bring the most amount of people back online the shortest amount of time," said Murray.

In Goffstown, crews patched a series of downed lines. Fishing wires out of the brush, hoisting them up and splicing them back together. One such repair restored power to 319 homes and businesses, including the Goffstown Police Department.

Friday afternoon, PSNH said three of the state's major lines and 20 distribution lines were down.

'All Hell Broke Loose'

The winds and the rain began to pick up early Thursday evening. Hour-by-hour the intensity increased and before midnight the sounds of sirens filled the air in Manchester as heavy rain and wind ripped down trees and blocked roads.

"Things were quiet until midnight, then all hell broke loose," said Jim Van Dongen, of the New Hampshire Department of Safety.

"It looked like a war zone," said Dan Fournier, of Manchester.

"I thought my windows were going to cave in. My slider was actually moving," said another Manchester resident.

The falling limbs took down power lines, causing transformers to explode. Residents said they could see flashes throughout the city as transformers blew up.

Livingston Park in Manchester was turned into a debris field as limbs and branches from pine trees crashed into picnic areas and mangled a playground.

On Campbell Street, the driver of a car escaped injury after winds pushed a tree down on top of his vehicle.

In Auburn power lines came down on a car, trapping the driver for a time.

Rescue officials said that even with all the destruction, few serious injuries were reported.

Debris Creates Maze For Drivers

On Friday, drivers woke to find roads littered with debris and in some cases, impassible.

 

Scobie Pond Road in Derry was one such road. Resident Gary Clermont set up his own road block to warn drivers that there was no way up the road.

"They're getting pretty frustrated when they get up to the other end of the road and find there's wires down," said Clermont.

Crews were able to clear the road Friday afternoon.

Auburn Road in Auburn was flooded, but that didn't stop some drivers from plowing through the standing water.

In Londonderry, a volunteer alert team began offering guidance to drivers at 3 a.m.

"People are really frustrated," said Wayne Hall. "They want to go here and their home is right here, but they can't get right here."

In Amherst, high water made Boston Post Road and Ponemah Road impassible.

Police and volunteers asked drivers to be patient and said they would open roads as soon as they were safe to travel.

Fire Officials Emphasize Generator Safety

In Amherst, power was out to about half of the town's 13,000 residents.

 

Given that, fire officials are asking residents with generators to run them at a safe distance from their house. They were cautioning those with wood stoves to be careful as well.

Anyone looking for emergency or shelter information can call 211 for assistance.

 

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