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Snow gives drivers fits, cuts power to 5,300

Sunday News Correspondent
New Hampshire Union Leader

January 18. 2014 9:54PM
Joanie Moniz clears off her car on Perdue Street in Manchester on Saturday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Emergency crews moved dozens of people off the Sagamore Bridge in Hudson on Saturday after their vehicles had become stranded because of a truck accident during a heavy snowfall.

It was one of dozens of snow-triggered accidents in the state, officials said, and several thousand homes and businesses lost power.

Hudson firefighters responded to a report of a jackknifed tractor trailer shortly before 1 p.m. and found that about 20 vehicles had either slipped off the roadway or were stuck on the west side of the bridge from Hudson into Nashua, according to fire officials.

"None of them had collided, but they had all slid off the road," said Capt. David Morin of the Hudson Fire Department, adding it was fortunate that no one was injured and none of the vehicles was damaged. Morin said all of the vehicles' drivers and passengers - about 35 people - were asked to exit their vehicles and stand on the other side of the guardrail. Some of the stranded vehicles were blocking the exit to the F.E. Everett Turnpike, as well.

Because of the treacherous road conditions, fire officials believed the occupants would be safer outside of their vehicles until emergency vehicles could assist, explained Morin.

State highway department staff arrived to plow the bridge, allowing drivers to move their stranded vehicles about an hour later, according to Morin.

"The roads are horrendous," he said, adding several other traffic problems took place on Saturday afternoon as heavy, wet snow continued to fall throughout the region.

One person was injured in a crash on Kimball Hill Road, and about six vehicles were off the roadway in that same area, said Morin.

As his department responded to an accident on Route 102, members witnessed a head-on crash in Litchfield involving two vehicles with at least one serious injury.

As conditions continued to deteriorate because of the snow, emergency officials were urging motorists to stay off the roadways if possible.

"There have been several accidents in the city due to slick roads," said Justin Kates, director of Nashua's Office of Emergency Management. "This is one of those events that was bound to happen sometime this year; we expected about 1 or 2 inches, but now it looks like closer to 6."

The Nashua Public Works Department and other city agencies had to make quick decisions about how to handle the storm, according to Kates, who said a snow emergency was declared from 10 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. today to allow plows time to clear the roadways.

Public Service of New Hampshire reported more than 5,300 customers without electricity Saturday evening, including 1,557 in Pembroke and 715 in Hooksett, according to its website. A car accident triggered an outage in the areas of Allenstown, Pembroke and Hooksett, PSNH tweeted.

Unitil, meanwhile, reported 282 customers without power, including 258 in Atkinson, but power was restored by Saturday evening. New Hampshire Electric Co-op reported 86 customers affected Saturday evening, and Liberty Utilities reported only a handful of customers without power.

The National Weather Service on Saturday afternoon upgraded a winter weather advisory to a winter storm warning into Saturday evening for eastern Hillsborough County as well as Strafford and Rockingham counties, with 4 to 8 inches of snow predicted.

Snowfall totals through early Saturday afternoon included 6.5 inches in Hampstead, 5.5 in Epping, 5.2 in Hudson, 4.8 in Nashua and 4.5 in Derry.

Through Friday, Concord had recorded 28.9 inches of snow this winter, 1.8 inches above normal. There was 18.9 inches at this time last year.

Manchester declared a snow emergency from 10 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday. No parking is permitted on any city streets during such emergencies; scofflaws risk having their vehicles towed.

Arctic weather will return to the state Monday, with forecast lows in the single numbers in the state's southern tier Monday night and below zero on Tuesday night.

Driving was slow-going in many parts Saturday.

"Accidents everywhere at the moment," Manchester police Sgt. Craig Russo said.

Manchester police were responding to seven accidents at one time, Russo said early Saturday afternoon.The F.E. Everett Turnpike also had multiple cars off the road, state police said.

In Dover, local police responded to more than a dozen accidents and "numerous vehicles off the road" in a three-hour period, according to Sgt. William Malsbury.

The accidents are "due to the slippery conditions and icy roads," Malsbury said.

Bill Boynton, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said it was "snowing pretty heavily in the southern part of the state" Saturday afternoon.

"Crews started getting called out at around 9 a.m. and have been out there plowing and treating the roads," Boynton said. "Conditions vary, with some roads snow covered and some with wet and bare pavement. Adding to the challenge, according to our traffic management center, is that traffic is pretty heavy on some roads."

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