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Saturday afternoon storms spark fires, leave some folks in the dark

New Hampshire Sunday News

August 04. 2012 11:54PM
Firefighters work to put out a fire that destroyed a baseball equipment storage shed at Allard Park in Goffstown Saturday evening. The blaze was reportedly started by a lightning strike. (Josh Gibney/Union Leader)

A lightning strike - spawned from slow-moving thunderstorms that knocked out power to more than 8,500 in New Hampshire - is suspected of sparking a fire that leveled a building housing sports equipment for the Goffstown Babe Ruth League on Saturday. 'It's a big loss for the community,' Goffstown Fire Lt. Bill Connor said Saturday night. Connor said he doesn't believe the building's owner, Maurice Allard, had insurance on the structure, which was about 100-by-30 feet in size, at Allard Park. League President Kevin Baines said the league didn't carry insurance, and he didn't have a dollar estimate on the loss. The building, known as the old Crestwood Arms and used as a nightclub back in the 1970s, contained indoor batting cages and pitching mounds for players to use throughout the year, he said. It also contained the infrastructure for the electrical and irrigation systems as well as other sports equipment. 'It's unfortunate,' Baines said. 'We are operating on a shoe-string budget and hoped to give it (the field) a makeover this fall.' Money earmarked for the field work may now need to be redirected toward rebuilding, he said. Lightning caused two fires in Manchester. One fire destroyed a shed and its contents at 26 Brent Court just before 7 p.m., according to District Fire Chief Michael Gamache. An hour earlier, another fire caused an estimated $20,000 in damage to a rear screened-in porch at 112 Omega St. and damaged part of the second floor. An elderly resident planned to stay with family members, said District Fire Chief Mark Pelletier. The storms, which took aim primarily in the state's southern tier in the afternoon and early evening hours, hit Weare with nickel-size hail and at least 2.65 inches of rain. About 30 percent of the town's homes and businesses lost power, with more than 1,000 still without power more than five hours later. Around 8 p.m., more than 8,500 Public Service of New Hampshire customers were without power in about 30 communities. 'Nashua, Weare, Goffstown and Dunbarton are the major trouble spots right now,' utility spokesman Michael Skelton said. Outage counts began dropping after 8 p.m., but spiked again before 11 p.m. to nearly 8,000, according to PSNH's website. Nashua reported the most outages, 2,840, with more than a quarter of Weare and New Boston customers remaining in the dark. PSNH customers calling in outages reported trees on power lines and lightning strikes, he said. Some areas in the state's southern tier received more than 2 inches of rain. The rough weather produced a two-hour delay midway through the annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in Hanover, and authorities evacuated spectators at Memorial Field as a precaution, police said. Heavy rain also washed out the New Hampshire Fisher Cats game in Manchester. Meteorologist Matthew Belk of the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., which covers parts of New Hampshire, said the storms were 'just primarily heavy rain producers.' And Mother Nature isn't done. 'We do have some showers and thunderstorms in the forecast (for late today),' he said.

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Union Leader reporter Mark Labore contributed to this story.

Units from Goffstown. Manchester, Dunbarton, and New Boston responded to a fire Saturday that destroyed the old manufacturing building that was currently used by the baseball teams. The cause was suspected to be a lightning strike. (David Suitor)

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