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October 26. 2012 12:53AM

Granite State keeps a weather eye on Sandy


A worker from Mayer Tree Service of Plaistow uses his chainsaw to cut through a large tree in Atkinson Thursday as part off Unitil's efforts to clear trees that could pose problems for electrical lines in a storm. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

HAMPTON — All eyes are on Hurricane Sandy and an unusual track that could bring the powerful storm into New England, but forecasters say it’s too early to know what the impact will be.

“Wherever this thing makes landfall, there are going to be some serious issues,” said Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

Forecasters said the hurricane could strike anywhere from the Mid-Atlantic to New England as a strong tropical storm or even a minimal hurricane, bringing heavy rain, winds gusting over 60 mph and inland and coastal flooding.

Sandy is expected to zigzag off the East Coast, making a turn to the east before likely curving back to the west and nailing the coastline in the Monday to Tuesday time frame, forecasters said.

Even if the storm were to make landfall in New Jersey, Hawley said New England will still see some wind and up to 3 inches of rain with some flooding.

“I don’t think there’s any question we have an impact and a significant impact. It’s going to be a gargantuan storm,” NECN meteorologist Matt Noyes said Thursday.

Hampton-based Unitil Corp. has already contacted outside crews to assist in the event of significant power outages, according to Alec O’Meara, Unitil spokesman.

PSNH said it has secured a number of local contractor crews as well, and the company is working to retain additional line workers and support staff.

“We may be looking at a decent amount of tree damage and we should be in the mind set of extended power outages,” said Noyes, who urged homeowners to trim back tree branches around their homes, clean the leaves from their gutters, bring in their lightweight patio furniture, and have a preparedness kit with supplies on hand.

The storm comes just a few weeks after Unitil launched a new program in southern New Hampshire that involves creating approximately 10 feet of clearance on either side of 15 miles of electrical line in Atkinson, Newton and Plaistow this fall.

Seabrook Fire Chief Jeffrey Brown said he shares the concerns about coastal flooding in low-lying areas at Seabrook Beach and power outages.

“If we get enough wind, it’s going to knock anything over,” he said.

Fall vacationers camping at the Hampton Beach State Park were watching Sandy’s track Thursday, but they’ll have to leave by Sunday because that’s when the park closes for the season.

Bob Bossey, 63, of Meredith, arrived in his 36-foot camper Thursday morning for the weekend. If the storm comes in sooner than expected, Bossey said he’ll be gone.

“The wind would do too much damage,” he said.

Rick Johnson, 59, of Manchester, and his wife, Cheryl, have been camping at the park for the past week. They like to camp at the beach in the fall, but they know the weather is unpredictable. They left early last October when a surprise nor’easter delivered snow for Halloween.

Johnson said he is preparing for a power outage when he gets home.

“We usually lose power,” he said. “I’m ready to go south.”

For detailed emergency preparedness information, visit the state’s emergency preparedness website, www.nh.gov/readynh.

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Jason Schreiber may be reached at jschreiber@newstote.com.


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