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It may take up to week to restore electricity

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 30. 2011 9:58PM
While crews worked to clear trees from Boston Post Road in Amherst Sunday afternoon, more trees were falling on Route 122. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)

A historic storm that dumped up to 31.5 inches of branch-bending wet snow on inland regions turned Halloween scarecrows into snowmen and plunged much of the state into darkness, with utility companies predicting up to a week before all power is restored.

'We have a long road ahead,' Public Service Company of New Hampshire spokesman Michael J. Skelton said of the freak nor'easter that knocked out power to 285,000 utility customers Sunday morning. That number climbed to 289,615 customers by late Sunday afternoon, even as work crews restored electricity to some customers during the day, state Department of Safety spokesman James Van Dongen said.

'We are already into the territory of this being the third-largest outage in PSNH history, right behind the 2010 wind storm and the 2008 ice storm,' Skelton said.

Gov. John Lynch warned residents to prepare to be without service for some time.

'It is possible (people) will be without power for several days, so residents who are without power should consider alternative shelter plans,' Lynch said in a statement.

Shelters opened Sunday in Hooksett, Londonderry, Manchester, Nashua, Newmarket, Newton and Rochester for those without electricity or heat.

The storm forced school closings today (click here for the latest) and postponed trick-or-treating in the state's largest city to Nov. 6, but caused no known deaths or serious injuries, officials said.

A record-breaker

The National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, reported snowfall totals ranging from 3.3 inches in the Hamptons to 31.5 inches in Jaffrey. They include Concord, with 22.2 inches, Bedford, at 20.8 inches, Derry, with 12 inches, Merrimack, at 19 inches, Milford, with 20 inches, Nashua, which got 11 inches and Washington, which had 19.5 inches.

'This storm is a record-breaker for October,' meteorologist Butch Roberts said of snow totals recorded in the Concord area.

The storm not only broke records for October snowfall, but ranked third in terms of total snowfall in the Concord area of any storm since the National Weather Service began keeping records, meteorologist Butch Roberts said.

'It's pretty unusual to get this big a storm this early,' Roberts said.

Temperatures will be in the upper 40s and lower 50s beginning today, Roberts said.

'Unfortunately, it's all going to melt. It's all going to go away,' he added.

Southern tier hit

The nor'easter that cut an arc across New England from the Berkshires in Massachusetts, across the Monadnock region to just south of Conway and into Maine dumped heavy wet snow on mostly southern New Hampshire, snapped tree limbs, utility poles and power lines.

Cleanup crews were out in force Sunday, though downed trees and branches partially blocked many roads and made some impassable.

Hardest-hit in terms of outages is the region from Manchester to Nashua to Salem, which is the most heavily populated section of the state, Skelton said.

According to PSNH, about 41,000 Manchester customers were without power, while 30,000 Nashua customers and 9,800 customers in Hudson - comprising nearly every customer in Hudson - had no electricity Sunday.

As of 9:45 p.m. Sunday, 224,637 PSNH, 6,627 New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, 23,016 Unitil and 70 National Grid customers were without power, according to outage reports maintained by the state's four utility companies.

Up to a week

Given power outages are concentrated in urban and heavily settled suburban areas, Van Dongen said he expects 'you will see a lot of them (customers) get put back on in the next couple of days. But it could take a week to get all of the stragglers back on.'

PSNH brought in 25 crews from Hydro Quebec and expect another 30 crews coming in from outside the region, Skelton said.

State Homeland Security Director Christopher M. Pope cautioned residents to be careful when using generators and alternative heat sources and strongly urged everyone to slow down while driving and give extra room between vehicles.

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