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A weekend to get ready for Hurricane Sandy

Union Leader Correspondent

October 26. 2012 10:44PM
Hurricane Sandy is seen churning towards the United States in this NASA handout satellite image taken on October 26. (Reuters)

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Residents and boaters are being warned to prepare for the worst and hope for the best as Hurricane Sandy churns closer to New England, bringing inland and coastal flooding and damaging winds similar to if not worse than what Granite Staters saw in a ferocious windstorm two years ago.

A precedent-setting storm in terms of its northwest path and massive wind field, Sandy was already causing headaches in New Hampshire Friday as boaters began taking action and utility companies raced to secure extra crews to help with expected power outages.

New Hampshire trick-or-treaters whose plans were fouled up by last October's historic snowstorm have also been spooked by Sandy. Several towns planning to trick-or-treat Monday and Tuesday switched to Sunday to get ahead of the storm.

'It definitely has the potential for widespread significant impacts as far as power outages, flooding, and beach erosion,' warned Michael Kistner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

The brunt of Sandy, or the powerful hybrid storm that she's expected to become, will be felt in New Hampshire beginning Monday afternoon and lasting through Tuesday, Kistner said.

The widespread tree damage from the windstorm in February 2010 that knocked out power to 360,000 New Hampshire homes and businesses could be repeated as winds may gust between 50 and 60 mph for 18 to 24 hours in southern New Hampshire, Kistner said.

'That's pretty impressive right there,' he added.

But that's if Sandy stays on a more southerly track that would send her into New Jersey. If she makes landfall closer to Long Island, N.Y., Kistner said New Hampshire could see gusts 60 to 70 mph, especially along the coast.

During the 2010 windstorm, winds gusted to 63 mph in Manchester and 68 in both Concord and Portsmouth, but the storm only lasted for a few hours.

Flooding from Sandy will also be a concern as the storm is forecast to dump 3-5 inches of rain across the state, with locally higher amounts, especially to the north, Kistner said.

Coastal flooding is a worry as well, as seas will be building to 15 feet and possible up to 30 feet depending on Sandy's track, forecasters said.

State and local emergency officials spent Friday making emergency plans, while members of the Coast Guard at the New Castle station warned boaters to secure their boats or take them in.

'We obviously are preparing for the worst, so we're treating it as if it's going to happen,' said MST 2nd Class Kurt Tomcavage, who spent Friday working with larger vessels to reschedule their trips ahead of Sandy.

Public Service of New Hampshire, the state's largest electricity utility, was working to bring in more manpower if needed, in addition to having 100 tree-trimming crews pre-staged at work centers around the state to begin cleanup as soon as the storm passes. PSNH said it also began making calls Friday to customers on medical support devices and others vulnerable in an outage to remind them of how to plan and prepare for an outage and what they should do.

Unitil Corp. of Hampton said it would have help from as far away Michigan, Tennessee and Canada and as many as 1,000 Unitil and non-Unitil workers on hand.

Meanwhile, the University of New Hampshire announced Friday that it would close its Durham campus Monday and Tuesday because of Sandy's potential impact, prompting first lady Michelle Obama to cancel a campaign event there.

'We used all of the information available to make the best decision for the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors,' UNH President Mark Huddleston said in a statement. 'Losing days in the classroom is not something we ever like to do, but I encourage faculty to reach out to their students before the storm with any reading or assignments that can be done even if power is lost.'

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