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Storm kept Manchester, Nashua firefighters busy with rescues Friday night

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 22. 2016 6:38PM
Jeffrey Hastings Multiple cars were stranded in high water and drivers had to be rescued on West Clarke Street in Manchester on Friday night. (Jeff Hastings)

MANCHESTER — At the height of Friday night’s pounding rains, fire crews in both Manchester and Nashua were rescuing people from submerged cars, responding to accident scenes and pumping out basements where surging waters reached dangerously high levels.

Manchester District Fire Chief Michael Gamache said firefighters rescued about a half-dozen people from their cars when they became stranded on flooded city streets. People had to be pulled out through the windows, Gamache said.

“They were in three feet of water and were afraid as most people would be,” he said.

Gamache said fire crews were responding to areas of the city that were not known for flooding, such as Webster and Maple streets.

Residents along West River Road in Colonial Village looked outside to see water halfway up their cars as the street filled with three to four feet of water.

On Saturday, Jim McInnis was using a vacuum to suck up about three inches of water from inside his girlfriend’s car. He and a friend were trying to figure out how to dry out the car without damaging any of the wires and computers.

“The drains got clogged,” he said. He pointed out lines of wet fallen leaves along lawns on both sides of the street which marked the high flood waters.

Gamache said fire, police and highway departments all worked together to ensure the drains and roads were cleared and people were safe.

But it made for a long night, with every piece of fire equipment in use and with calls having to be stacked because there was no one to send. And, as the storm calls continued to pour in, Gamache said the usual medical and fire calls came in as well, including two heroin overdoses, four calls of homes being struck by lightning and a serious accident on Elm Street involving a pedestrian.

“So there was a lot going on in a short period of time,” Gamache said.

Gamache said he doesn’t know if the accident was storm-related. “We don’t investigate accidents, police do,” he said. But, he added, “visibility was extremely limited.”

On Saturday, fire crews were still out with submersible pumps helping homeowners get rid of unwanted flood waters in their cellars.

In Nashua, firefighters answered more than 50 calls in a three-hour period of heavy rains. They, too, rescued people stranded in cars on flooded roads throughout the city. Several were removed from vehicles on Amherst Street, French Hill and Easton Street. Electrical surges caused fire alarms to sound, and crews responded to homes and businesses, including Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, because of major flooding.

As the calls for help piled up because of the storm, Nashua fire crews went to a serious crash at the F.E. Everett Turnpike and East Dunstable Road overpass involving two vehicles. Four patients were taken to the hospital, two with serious injuries.

Crews also had to deal with an open vault to a waste water interceptor line that carries rain water to the treatment plant. One report received was that someone may have fallen in, but that did not prove to be the case. Fire officials said it was determined most likely that the pressure from the large volume of water popped open the vault cover.

In Londonderry, heavy rain indirectly prompted an emergency call Saturday when a man got stuck waist-deep in silty clay that the storm had turned to muck.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Zins said the man was riding in a four-wheeler with friends off West Road, near the town drop-off center, when the vehicle got stuck.

The silty clay, which Zins estimated covers about a quarter of an acre, is a byproduct of washing stone. It’s laid out near the drop-off center to dry out and then be reused or sold. But Friday night’s deluge had the opposite effect.

The man got stuck while trying to remove the four-wheeler. His friends called emergency personnel to the scene about 1 p.m. They laid a ladder across the clay to stand on something solid, and used shovels to help dig him out.

“When you get stuck in it, it comes around and creates a suction, and he couldn’t break that suction to pull both legs out,” Zins said. “They were able to slowly work him out of the clay.”

“This was a first for me,” he added, “that somebody gets stuck in that kind of manner.”

According to the National Weather Service, the storm dumped 3.49 inches of rain on Manchester, the most in the state. Nashua got 2.79 inches. The town of Newton received 3.46 inches, while 3.39 inches of rain poured down on Stratham. Exeter received 3.29 inches and Londonderry received 3.14 inches.

NWS meteorologist John Cannon in Gray, Maine, said heavy rains in October are not that unusual.

The state and the region need the rain, given drought conditions. However, Cannon said that while the downpour helped, more than likely it came down so hard and so fast that there wasn’t enough time for it to be absorbed into the ground and, instead, went directly into the streams and rivers. So, he said, it probably didn’t give much relief to those who rely on wells.

Before Friday’s rains, areas in the state such as West Hampstead and Nashua were about 15 inches below normal for rainfall, he said.

New Hampshire Sunday News correspondent Eli Okun contributed to this report.

Public Safety Weather Londonderry Manchester Nashua Exeter Newton Stratham

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