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July 17. 2012 11:53PM

Storm knocks out power to more than 24,000 homes


High winds from a quick-moving storm left a tree down across power lines, closing River Road near Castle Drive Tuesday night in Manchester. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)

Strong thunderstorms barreled across New Hampshire on Tuesday evening, knocking out power to more than 24,000 homes and businesses, including nearly 1,000 in Manchester.

Manchester fire crews responded to “a bunch of trees around the city” that came down, especially in the Hackett Hill area, said District Fire Chief James Michael. “Some hit wires; some didn't.”

Hooksett firefighters responded to 15 Fieldstone Drive for a reported lightning strike.

“It hit a tree out in the back yard and traveled into the house,” Deputy Fire Chief deputy Mike Hoisington said.

An electrical outlet got scorched, and the homeowners were checking to see if any appliances were damaged, he said.

Not everyone got the heavy storms.

Bedford police reported wind but no rain. Londonderry police also had no rain outside their station.

In Rochester, a live power line fell on the Spaulding Turnpike, closing a section of turnpike. Northbound traffic went through the toll booth and then was U-turned back through the tolls in the opposite direction safely because a different section of the southbound turnpike was shuttered, according to Rochester fire Lt. Eric Lenzi. The turnpike was closed for just over an hour.

“We were just trying to empty the highway from a dangerous situation,” a state police dispatcher said.

She doesn't believe people were charged to go through the toll again. Otherwise, the dispatcher said, “they'd be calling here screaming at me.”

James Brown, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said winds topped 60 mph in some places, including Alton.

“We're looking mostly for wind damage,” he said. “We've all kinds of trees down”

Blame the storms on a clash of air masses.

“We've got a very warm, humid air mass in place and a colder air mass coming down from Canada,” Brown said. “The two are clashing and creating these thunderstorms.”

By late last night, utilities had cut the number of outages in half to more than 11,000. Farmington, Hopkinton and Rochester each had more than 1,000 customers without power.

PSNH spokesman Matthew Chagnon said the outages were spread over a wide section of the state.

“From what I understand, there's a lot of wires down,” he said. “There's some poles down in some cases and those can take longer because it requires different crews to come in and set the poles.”

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Mike Cousineau may be reached at mcousineau@unionleader.com.


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