TILTON — Larry and Sylvia Rivers sat together on the front deck of their home Saturday, their 29th wedding anniversary and Sylvia's 50th birthday.
But they weren't celebrating anything. Behind them stood a few remaining walls and what's left of their roof. Their barbecue grill was crushed, as were both of their cars. A new bicycle that was a birthday present to one of their daughters lay among the home's wreckage.
A microburst, a short-lived pattern of intense winds that descends from storm clouds, went through the area of Hill Road in Tilton and a nearby road in Belmont just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, with winds of up to 70 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage resulted, and several homes were affected, as were 15 to 20 vehicles parked in the lot at the Water's Edge Condominium village, which takes up a large section of Hill Road.
The Rivers were inside their home when a large pine tree fell through the roof as Larry watched the weather report on television and Sylvia stood in the kitchen.
Both described the experience as “awful”; their ceiling and floors collapsed in sections, while branches and pieces of the home were blown around the house and yard.
An insurance investigator hasn't yet determined whether any part of the house can be repaired. But the Rivers were mostly smiles Saturday.
“We're alive,” Sylvia said. “We're not celebrating much of anything today, though my mom brought us a cake. Maybe tomorrow.”
Year-round and summer residents in the area were asked to evacuate their homes Wednesday because of the danger of exposed power lines.
Utility poles and power lines were on the ground in several areas, and though power company repair crews were called, residents' safety was a concern.
Power was restored to the area within 24 hours, and most residents were able to return to their homes Thursday. The wrecked vehicles were towed away Friday. On Saturday, cable TV crews were moving among houses, and workers were filling a large wood chipper with tree branches and limbs.
The Rivers and their three children couldn't go home the following day, though, at least not to live. They are staying in the condominium complex's main building for now and will be moving to one of the nearby cabins soon, Sylvia Rivers said.
They lost some clothing and furniture in the house, but were able to recover most of their personal effects.
“We didn't lose any pictures, we've got most of our clothes … we didn't lose that much, really, that can't be replaced,” she said.
Sylvia Rivers will go back to work as a cook supervisor at Lakes Region General Hospital on Monday. Larry Rivers, 63, who is semi-retired, will try to get his home real estate sales and rentals business going again in their temporary home.
“They say it'll be six or eight months before our house will be livable again,” Larry said.
“We're very lucky, at least we're all alive and all right,” Sylvia said.
As dark clouds made the sky overcast and it was mentioned that thunderstorms were in the forecast, Sylvia grew serious.
“Oh no,” she said. “I don't think I could bear to hear that noise again.”
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Dan Seufert may be reached at email@example.com.