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January 31. 2013 7:27AM

Wild winds to be chased by cold


Heavy winds brought this tree down on top of utility lines on Arah Street in Manchester Thursday morning. The road has been closed. (David Lane/Union Leader)


A tree fell on two cars and a home during high winds early Thursday morning at a residence on Berkley Street in Merrimack. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent)

High winds that knocked out power for thousands made it difficult to enjoy Thursday's unseasonably warm temperatures, while forecasts show that the Granite State will have to brace for another stretch of cold weather.

About 5,000 residents and businesses across the state lost power Wednesday morning, the result of heavy rain and gusty winds downing trees and damaging power lines.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Pemigewasset River in Woodstock after an ice jam formed. The Weather Service said that once the ice jam breaks, the water will rise rapidly downstream, and people who live in flood-prone areas along the river should remain vigilant.

The Sugar River in Claremont flooded twice because of ice flow jams, prompting the fire department to ask the residents of a few homes near the river to leave their homes temporarily, Fire Capt. Tom Belaire said. Belaire said a firefighter was assigned to stay at the river overnight Thursday to monitor it.

"The water levels have dropped back to normal at this point," he said Thursday night. "But obviously, with the ice, it's very unpredictable."

About 7 a.m. Thursday, Public Service of New Hampshire reported 2,265 of its customers had lost power, while Unitil, with service concentrated on the Seacoast, had 2,087 customers without power. Power outages affected 1,017 New Hampshire Electric Co-op customers, while Liberty Utilities reported 20 customers were in the dark.

Most of the PSNH customers who lost power were in Londonderry and Laconia, while most of Unitil's customers who lost power were in Exeter.

About 900 NHEC customers lost power after a tree collapsed onto wires and broke two utility poles along Gilmanton Road in Barnstead around 8 a.m., according to NHEC Spokesman Seth Wheeler.

Wheeler said NHEC's largest outage is affecting about 2,300 homes and businesses in the towns of Andover, Salisbury, Wilmot, Sutton, Danbury and Grafton.

In Durham, high winds felled a tree near the Madbury substation late Thursday morning, causing 900 Durham residents to lose power. According to an email from town administrator Todd Selig, PSNH has dispatched two crews to restore power to this section of town. The town will stay in contact with PSNH over the course of the day.

Power outages were reported in New Hampton and Gilmanton Thursday morning. Gilmanton officials reported several trees down in that town.

Temperatures in some parts of the state reached the low 60s on Thursday, but Eric Sinsabaugh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said temperatures will plummet today and through the weekend.

"Colder air is making its way in as we speak," he said at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. "The main word for the next few days is 'cold'; Back to the freeze."


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