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Woodstock resident killed in mudslide; Windham man critically injured by falling tree; help is on the way from Canada

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 29. 2012 9:56PM

A line crew works to restore power after a tree brought down wires on North Russell Street in Manchester Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

LINCOLN - A Woodstock resident died this morning when a hill where he was standing liquified, plunging him into a mudslide of about two stories in height, Lincoln police said.

The man was inspecting the damage that heavy rains had done to the foundation work that his company had started in the area of The Landing, a housing deveopment east of Loon, said Police Chief Theodore Smith.

"With all this rain, basically the ground liquifies," Smith said. "He was standing there looking at it. The entire mound of dirt and rocks carried him down. It was just like a dam breaking."

The fatality took place as northern New Hampshire remains under a flood watch.

"Additional rainfall amounts of 1 to 3 inches through the evening are expected across the mountains and foothills of western Maine and northern New Hampshire," the Weather Service said at 10:30 a.m. "Periods of heavy rain, especially along the east-facing slopes of the higher terrain will result in the potential for additional flooding."

The Weather Service warned that small streams may quckly rise.

Lincoln police are withholding the man's name until relatives have been contacted, Smith said. Meanwhile, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration was due in Lincoln this afternoon, and the New Hampshire Medical Examiner is expected to examine the body in Plymouth.

Smith said Lincoln police were called to the area of The Landing about 8 a.m. by the man's co-worker. He was performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the victim, and Lincoln police took over until an ambulance arrived.

Smith said the company had dug out the hillside foundation and put lumber in place in order to pour concrete. Stormwater had filled the hole of the foundation, and the workers were preparing to pump it out when the mudslide took place.

Smith said the rains from Hurricane Sandy were heavy, and the Pemigewasset River was high this morning.

And in Windham, a Windham man is in critical condition at a Boston hospital after a tree fell on his vehicle in the midst of Monday's storm.

William Deluca III was injured Monday shortly after 5 p.m., police officials reported, when hurricane-level winds apparently blew a massive tree limb onto his car as he was traveling near Range and Cobbett's Pond roads.

A call to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston confirmed that Deluca was being cared for at the facility, though details of his injuries weren't immediately available on Tuesday.

In other weather-related news, state utility regulators expect power companies to have all electricity restored by the end of the week, well before Tuesday's general election.

The massive storm did little damage to the state's roads and bridges, although 32 state roads were closed as of Tuesday morning and 201 local roads in five main areas.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement said 90 percent of the closures are due to trees and wires on the roadways. He said all roads should be open within a couple of days.

But Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Chris Pope told reporters at a press briefing Tuesday morning, 'We're not out of this yet,' noting more rain is expected and that could impact watersheds, particularly in the northern part of the state.

State officials do not expect flooding to be a problem, although the major trunk rivers like the Merrimack and Androscoggin are expected to continue to rise for several days but not reach flood level.

During the height of the storm Monday, 53 people went to five shelters while 47 remained at the five shelters in Nashua, Keene, Plymouth, Rochester and North Hampton overnight.

'Our collective message to the people of New Hampshire is 'Please stay safe,'' said Gov. John Lynch.

President Obama granted Gov. Lynch's requested for a statewide declaration of emergency relief on Tuesday, which makes federal resources available to support public safety efforts, protect property and avert further damage from Hurricane Sandy.

Lynch's office said the declaration will also allow federal support for shelters, road clearing and provision of commodities such as water and emergency generators to the state and local governments.

"The high winds and heavy rains caused widespread power outages, local flooding and temporarily shut down dozens of state and local roadways in counties across the state. I appreciate President Obama's quick action in issuing this emergency declaration, and the ongoing support New Hampshire has received from its federal partners," Lynch said.

In the aftermath of the storm, the state will work with local communities and the Federal Emergency Management Administration to determine the extent of damages to state and local infrastructure and private property. That may lead to an additional request for a major disaster declaration.

Federal Emergency Management officials have been in the state for several days, Pope said, assessing the situation.

Seventy-five electric line crews from Hydro Quebec will soon be en route to New Hampshire, a move that could trim two days from current restoration estimates, Public Service of New Hampshire officials said Tuesday afternoon.

"With that help, we should be able to speed it up a couple of days," said Gary Long, president and chief operations officer of PSNH, the state's largest utility, during a mid-afternoon telephone press conference.

State emergency officials reported that Unitil had 13,611 customers without power at mid-afternoon; New Hampshire Electric Co-op, 20,913; Liberty Utilities, 9,801.

As of Tuesday afternoon, PSNH counted 106,000 customers without power, down from a peak of 137,000. Outages caused by Sandy were the fourth-largest ever for PSNH, and Long said it will take three to four days to restore power without the additional HQ crews.

"It looks a lot like the pattern we had for restoring power under (Hurricane) Irene (in fall 2011)," Long said. Long, however, said he did not want to give firm predictions - as have other utilities - for fear they would be inaccurate.

Terry Large, deputy incident commander for PSNH, said the company will know better by Wednesday how it will get through the restoration.

PSNH will first concentrate on areas with large percentages of customers without power, and the number of customers without power will fall quickly as the company concentrates on single problems that allow for large amounts of restoration, Long said.

"It gets tougher as you go, it doesn't continue at that fast pace," Long said.

Costs of restoration will be substantial.

"We're already over $10 million. Could it go over $20 million? Time will tell," Long said.

He said the approxminately 80 crews that have come from Texas and Louisiana were paid three days of travel time to get to New Hampshire.

Also working on restoration are 89 two-person PSNH crews; 15 to 20 contact crews; and 100 tree trimming crews. Another 114 service workers ensure that power lines and carrying electricity directly to the PSNH meter, he said.

Long the crews from Hydro Quebec will speed up restoration, but he said they must come from across the province, and it is uncertain whether they can be mustered within six hours or 24 hours.

Unitil said it wants to hear from customers who still don't have power after their neighbors' power has been restored. Such customers likely have a "single-service issue" specific to thier home; they may need to hire an electrician to have power restored.

"Crews will continue to canvas our service territory today as we work aggressively to restore power for customers," Unitil spokesman Manager Alec O'Meara said. "We will continue to provide regular updates on our restoration efforts as we bring customers back on."

Earlier in the morning, the number of electricity customers without power had actually grown.

About 11 a.m., power companies said 182,551, up from a count of 175,000 early this morning, were without power.

"We're seeing the number fluctuate a little bit," said Mike Skelton, spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire, which reported 130,747 outages late this morning. He gave two reasons. Customers woke in the morning, realized their power was down and contacted the power company. And the breezes of this morning have been enough to give one last push to limbs damaged overnight.

He said crews are concentrating on clearing roads of downed power lines and restoring service to key infrastructure such as schools, shelters, hospitals and water-treatment facilities.

They are restoring power as they go and also assessing damage, which will allow PSNH to map out a restoration plan.

"At this point, we don't have a specific timeline," Skelton said.

PSNH reported that all its 4,897 customers in Windham were without power, as well as all 130 businesses and households in Atkinson, and all 98 customers in Grafton.

Ninety-nine percent of PSNH customers in Danville lacked power; only one reportedly had electricity.

Weather update:

Portsmouth appears to have experienced the strongest winds of Hurricane Sandy, while the Monadnock Region seems to have seen the most precipitation, according to National Weather Service monitoring data.

Weather stations at airports showed wind gusts of 52 mph at Pease Air Base around 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. The airport at Rochester recorded a 51 mph gust much earlier, around 6 p.m.

Other airports had gusts in the 40s, including Manchester, which measured a 49 mph burst about 7 p.m., and Nashua, which had a 43 mph gust around 10 p.m.

Most weather stations showed Hurricane Sandy tapering off late Monday night. For example, Nashua recorded a 16 mph wind about 11 p.m. and no gusts. Pease was down to 24 mph winds and 32 mph gusts by midnight.

Meanwhile, winds in Jaffrey never topped 33 mph, but the town that hugs Mount Monadnock recorded 3.5 inches of rain during the storm, far more than the 1.25 inches at Pease and 2.3 inches in Nashua.

Meanwhile, most of New Hampshire is under a hazardous weather outlook. Remanants of Hurricane Sandy continue to weaken, the Weather Service said, but heavy rain showers and occasional gusts of up to 40 mph can be expected through Tuesday.

The wind speed hit 140 mph at the Mt. Washington Observatory on Monday, by far the highest recorded gust of Hurricane Sandy in New Hampshire. The Observatory said the average wind speed was 74 mph, and 1.8 inches of precipitation fell in the 24-hour period that ended about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. Temperatures ranged from 33 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperatures are expected to fall Wednesday, and freezing rain, sleet and snow are possible for the high peaks in the White Mountains, the Observatory said.

Previous stories follow:

Tuesday, 8 a.m.: Nearly 175,000 households and businesses had no power Tuesday morning, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy, down from an overnight peak of 200,000, according to the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

James C. Van Dongen, public information officer, said the good news is New Hampshire missed the brunt of the storm in terms of flooding but "we are not out of the woods yet." Flooding could be an issue from the Lakes Region on north, he explained.

One injury was reported in Windham where a tree fell on a car, seriously injuring a man who was taken to a Massachusetts hospital, Van Dongen said.

It's expected there will be some improvement in the number of power outages, now that the wind has died down and crews can begin repairs.

The outages, he said, are widely scattered across the state and mainly the result of downed trees and wires. Roads are also closed because of flooding and downed trees, including 35 state roads and 199 local roads. The numbers, he noted, will change hourly.

Manchester fared well, according to Police Lt. Maureen Tessier. Overnight, minor flooding was reported on Elm and South Willow streets, while Tuesday morning there was some flooding on Bridge Street, near Trinity High School, and Wellington Road, near the I-93 overpass.

The communities with the most outages, as of 7:30 a.m., include Derry with 7,305; Londonderry, 7.036; Manchester, 6,469; Windham, 4,865; Merrimack, 4,634, and Hudson, 4,428.

A few towns are completely in the dark including Atkinson, Grafton and Hampstead, where 4,335 businesses and residences are without power, that is, unless they have generators.


Monday, 10 p.m.:The punchy winds of Hurricane Sandy were expected to diminish overnight, but not without knocking power out for thousands on the anniversary of another disastrous storm.

As of Monday evening, more than 200,000 power customers in New Hampshire lacked electrical service, and with an entire night of heavy winds in store, the number was expected to climb.

Wind gusts in many areas topped 40 mph by late afternoon, strong enough to sideline power restoration crews, who use bucket trucks to re-attach power lines to utility poles.

'The men can't get out and restore power until it's safe to do so,' said Martin Murray, spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire.

In Concord, nearly half the city was without power as of early Monday night. Towns to the east of Concord and Manchester such as Candia, Fremont, Chester, Exeter and Nottingham, had large percentages of homes without electricity.

The Candia Police Department was running on generator power Monday.

Shelters opened Monday in Keene, Nashua, Plymouth and Auburn, and other communities, including Bedford, Rochester and Laconia, had shelters on standby.

Monday was the one-year anniversary of the freak Snowtober storm, which dumped inches of heavy wet snow on the state, The storm affected an estimated 338,000 power customers, the third-worst power failure in the state's history.

Meanwhile, school officials on Monday weighed whether to keep schools closed for a second day in a row today, a decision that had to take into account weather and the safety of routes to get to school.

As of Monday night, Bedford, Fall Mountain and the Derryfield School, a private school in Manchester, had cancelled classes for today.

University of New Hampshire is closed today.

Wind is the issue

Winds associated with Sandy started hitting New Hampshire half way through the afternoon Monday. Gov. John Lynch issued a state of emergency hours before Hurricane Sandy made landfall. He urged people to stay off the roads starting at 3 p.m., and he asked employers to send their workers home early.

He sent non-essential state workers home in the early afternoon, a decision quickly followed by the city of Manchester, Simon Malls and others.

Jim Van Dongen, a spokesman for the state Emergency Operations Center, said it should be apparent by this morning whether roads are safe.

'People need to take appropriate safety precautions and see what the winds are like,' he said.

The high winds were forecast to begin weakening early this morning. Original forecasts for rain were tamped down to about 1 to 3 inches.

'Winds are going to be the bigger issue,' said Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Gusts were 49 mph in Manchester and 46 mph in Portsmouth and 45 in Nashua, according to Weather Service monitoring equipment.

The rain could cause some flooding in small streams and some streets, but rivers are not expected to even approach flood stage.

The Weather Service cautioned that some isolated areas could experience 5 inches of rain, and the eastern slopes of hills and mountains, which face Hurricane Sandy, will experience the worst when it comes to flooding and erosion.

Closed roads

Throughout the afternoon and evening, winds tossed around tree limbs, traffic lights and anything not tied down, such as lawn furniture. Gusts would subside, only to launch into a second tantrum.

'It's busy. So far many trees are down with wires involved,' said Epping Police Chief Jason Newman. The town opened its emergency operations center in mid-afternoon, and calls started coming in by the minute.

State officials said 127 local roads were blocked as of early last night.

And 18 state roads were closed, including Mast Road in Goffstown, Route 155A in Lee-Durham, Route 125 in Lee, Route 123 in Hancock, Route 111A in Brentwood, Route 12A in Claremont, Route 109 North in Moultonborough and Route 151 in North Hampton.

The most common cause of road closures were downed trees or wires.

For example, Hooksett officials closed Hackett Hill and South Bow roads Monday afternoon because of downed power lines and trees. At least three trees were down on South Bow Road.

All Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hosignton could do was wait for PSNH to clear the lines.

'We're hoping [soon],' he said. 'I don't know what the situation is on their arrival, with everything going on.'

New Hampshire Union Leader correspondents Jason Schreiber, April Guilmet, and Brendan Clogston contributed to this article.

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