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NH suffers 4th worst outage on record

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 27. 2014 9:30PM
Bill Hickman clears a fallen sugar maple on Hanover Steet in Manchester on Thursday. He said his uncooked turkey was in the oven awaiting the restoration of power. (Michael Cousineau/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — A Thanksgiving Eve Nor’easter dashed plans for home-cooked feasts and football viewing from the couch, leaving more than 200,000 homes and businesses without power on Thanksgiving and the potential for more dark days.

The Turkey Nor’easter ranked as the fourth-largest peak outage in the history of Public Service of New Hampshire, the state’s largest electric utility.

The December 2008 ice storm saw 322,000 PSNH customers lose power during that storm’s peak outage, followed by the February 2010 wind storm (269,000) and the October 2011 pre-Halloween storm (237,000), according to PSNH spokesperson Lauren Collins.

After nightfall Thursday, more than a quarter of Manchester remained in the dark, while more than half of Amherst, Bedford, Candia, Goffstown and Litchfield homes lacked electricity. More than 20 percent of Nashua and Rochester customers waited for the lights to return.

“We’re telling people to prepare for a multi-day restoration,” Collins said. “It doesn’t mean everybody will be without power for multiple days.”

PSNH reported more than 300 PSNH and contractor line-workers, tree-trimming specialists and others were assessing damage as well as requesting assistance for another 500 line workers who were to arrive Thursday and today. Crews from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, Quebec and Ontario were driving here to help.

“Nobody wants to lose power, especially not in the winter and especially, especially not on a holiday like Thanksgiving,” Collins said. “The timing is problematic not only for our customers, but everybody involved.”

PSNH reported about 200,000 customers without power around mid-day Thursday — about 40 percent of its total customers. That tally had shrunk to slightly more than 150,000 by early evening. Around 6 p.m., the overall statewide count stood at a little more than 175,000 — with Unitil reporting more than 10,000, New Hampshire Electric Co-op with nearly 14,000 and Liberty Utilities with 72.

Dinner options

Deb Smith of Auburn considered her dinner options during halftime of the annual Turkey Bowl football game at Gill Stadium.

“We’re going to order Chinese or something,” Smith said. “We’ll save the bird; it’s still in the fridge.”

Manchester’s Bill Hickman used a chainsaw to clear a fallen sugar maple in his yard while he waited for power to be restored inside his Hanover Street home.

“We have the turkey in the oven all ready to go,” Hickman said.

Moultonborough resident Donna Briggs had to invoke Plan B after power remained out Thursday morning.

“We had to cook our turkey on our outside gas grill, and that worked, but mostly because it wasn’t too cold out this morning,” she said.
The storm brought more eaters to The Common Man in Concord.

“We actually had a much busier day than usual with a lot of people in the area who were without power and they joined us for the holiday,” Assistant General Manager Trisha Beauchemin said.

Paul Desmarais of Manchester was living with electricity but without functioning Internet or cable Thursday morning. He received an unexpected overnight guest Wednesday night after the power went out at the Legacy Drive home of his mother-in-law, Jane Kearns.

Snapped trees

Two sisters followed their own custom 10k running course, traveling under a snapped branch sitting atop wires on D.W. Highway in Manchester, near Webster Street, which police had blocked off from auto traffic.

Erin Mahoney, 31, of Portsmouth said their trek led them past plenty of splintered trees and “people trying to dig themselves out.”

Her sister Megan, 33, of Hooksett, waited to hear where holiday dinner would be served. Her in-laws in Candia lost power, so “now we’re trying to find a place to move it to ... or it may be moved til tomorrow,” she said.

The Manchester Fire Department said it responded to 192 calls for assistance during Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, more than four times the average volume.

Fire crews responded to 40 Magnolia Road for a fire around 2 a.m. The homeowner earlier had started a fire in his fireplace because his power was out.

Around 2 a.m., smoke detectors sounded. Firefighters determined the fire was beginning to extend to the second floor and extinguished it.

The home remained livable and suffered about $20,000 in damage.

Union Leader Correspondent Dan Seufert contributed to this report.

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