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January 10. 2014 9:24PM

Snow gives way to rain, bringing flood threats


Shawn Diaz, left, and John Munoz, both from Manchester, jog on River Road in Manchester on Friday. Thomas Roy/Union Leader 

Light snow that fell during Friday's morning commute caused major headaches for drivers in southern New Hampshire, but the problems this weekend will switch from white to wet.

The inch of snow that caused dozens of accidents and spinouts will be washed away by 1 to 2 inches of rain expected Saturday and Sunday.

The threat of heavy rain, combined with milder temperatures in the 50s, prompted the National Weather Service to issue flood watches for the entire state this weekend.

Ice jam flooding on local rivers is the biggest concern.

"The ice could move and potentially dam up the rivers," said Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

Curtis said some of the rivers of greatest concern were the Saco River in Conway, the Contoocook River in Henniker, the Sugar River in Claremont, and the northern portion of the Connecticut River in the area of North Stratford and Lancaster.

The frigid weather in recent weeks has created ice on many of the rivers, but with some thawing expected from the rain and milder temperatures, Curtis said the ice could break up, forming big chunks that could pose problems.

"There's no way of predicting where they will form. It all depends on how the ice moves. The ice could move and let the water through," she said.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the 40s Monday and Tuesday. Curtis said there is no bitter cold in the forecast for at least the next week or so.

The flood threat comes after a snowy Friday that kept police and emergency crews busy.

Accidents on Interstate 93 southbound in Londonderry caused traffic to back up into Manchester for miles while delays were also seen on the Everett Turnpike southbound in Nashua after a three-car accident.

Staff Sgt. Paul Hunt of State Police Troop B in Bedford said troopers handled 52 crashes, including several rollovers, with another 15 vehicles that slid off the highways.

He said there were problems on all major highways, especially I-93 where a tractor-trailer jack-knifed, the Everett Turnpike and I-293.

Emergency personnel also responded to four car fires and investigated a hit and run accident with no injury in Manchester, he said.

No serious injuries were reported in any of the accidents.

The problem, Hunt said, is that drivers didn't slow down. They often tell police that they weren't driving fast, but, Hunt said, "The thing they have to understand is yes, they probably were doing the speed limit or just below, but they were going too fast for the conditions," he said.

Other crashes were reported on Interstate 95 in Hampton, including a rollover southbound. One person had to be extricated from the vehicle.

Another rollover was reported on I-95 in North Hampton just north of the tolls and yet another farther north in Portsmouth.

Several vehicles slid off the highway and multiple accidents were seen on Route 101 eastbound in Raymond and Epping.

Bill Boynton, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the steady light snow in many areas combined with lingering cold temperatures to create slippery conditions.

Turnpikes crews were called out between 3:30 and 4 a.m., he said, and calls went out to other maintenance crews at around 5:30 a.m. They continue to plow and treat the roads through Friday afternoon.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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