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3rd nor’easter in 2 weeks empties NH highways, closes schools; town elections still on

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 13. 2018 2:04PM
Route 101 through Candia is quiet as Tuesday’s nor’easter ramps up. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - The third nor'easter in two weeks shuttered schools and canceled flights Tuesday but didn't shut down town-meeting voting as communities across the state decided on keno, school projects and fire stations.

The state was expected to get between 10 inches of snow in western areas to around 20 inches along the Seacoast, according to the National Weather Service.

For a second straight year, a snowstorm struck on town meeting voting day.

“The reports I'm getting from my team out in the field is voter turnout in Rye and Jaffrey and Chesterfield so far has been extremely high,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Broadhead, the office's election law attorney.

State law doesn't authorize local or state officials to postpone town elections, according to state officials.

A bill approved by the Senate last week would give the Secretary of State's office the authority to issue a delay if it would be in the best interests of public safety.

Litchfield officials predicted the steady stream of voters they were seeing would dwindle quickly as the snow picked up Tuesday afternoon.

“I think everybody is trying to get their votes in early. By 2 p.m. it will probably be dead,” said Town Clerk Terri Briand. With two major issues on the ballot - a proposal to implement full-day kindergarten and a proposed $3.7 million fire station - Briand said residents were motivated to vote.

“There are a lot of important issues on the ballot, and for the good of the town I needed to make my voice heard, even in the snow storm,” said Diane Asbury. Her son, Will Bauer, said Tuesday was his first opportunity to vote since he turned 18, so he was eager to fulfill his civic duty.

In Bedford, snowplows were clearing the roads around the high school so voters could maneuver their vehicles and park.

“I feel like the election should have been moved to another day,” said Donna Sadof of Bedford. “I feel bad for the people who can't get here.”

Sadof said she voted shortly after noon when road conditions were beginning to deteriorate.

“There are a lot of younger voters who have SUVs that can get around in this weather, those who are probably more liberal voters, but I'm sure many older residents don't have that ability,” Sadof said.

Hooksett poll workers said they were surprised by the number of residents who showed up to vote. Town Moderator Cindy Robertson said more than 400 people had cast ballots by 11 a.m., making it likely last year's turnout would be eclipsed by early afternoon.

“Last year, we had 500 for the whole day in the snowstorm, so I don't know what it is, but we're doing amazingly well,” said Robertson. “It may have been all the articles and the newscasts about the voting today, so maybe more people knew and they came out, or maybe they had nothing better to do, but we're having a really good turnout for a town election so far.”

By late Tuesday morning, a heavy snow band, dropping 1 to 3 inches per hour, was burying parts of southeast New Hampshire, with another heavy band in the state's southwest corner, according to John Cannon, a meteorologist with the weather service in Gray, Maine.

“The heaviest snow will be between 11 a.m. (Tuesday) and 2 a.m. (Wednesday),” Cannon said. “You'll still get more snow after that, but it will be light.”

As of late Tuesday morning, Hillsborough reported the state's highest snowfall total with 5 inches, according to weather service spotters.

West Hampstead garnered 4.7 inches, with 4.6 inches in Rindge, 4.5 inches in Exeter, 4 inches in Deerfield and 3.5 inches in Nashua, according to spotters.

Hourly observations showed heavy snow at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport just before 1 p.m., according to the weather service.

“With wind gusts over 50 mph, there will be power outages,” he said, with the Seacoast seeing the highest chance of going dark.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, there were 57 homes and businesses without power statewide, including 53 in Kingston, according to online outage maps.

Meanwhile, more than 180,000 power customers were without electricity in Massachusetts as of early Tuesday afternoon.

People on New Hampshire's Seacoast will see pockets of minor to moderate beach erosion and splashover at high tide about 10 p.m. Tuesday, Cannon said.

The state Department of Transportation tweeted it had deployed 700 plow trucks to clear 9,000 lane miles of state highway.

“We expect snow on the roads behind our plow trucks during the storm,” the DOT said. “Travelers should use caution, reduce speeds, increase following distance, and allow extra time to reach their destination.”

The storm also shuttered legislative offices in the State House at 2 p.m.

All 68 flights, both arriving and departing, were canceled Tuesday at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, according to Deputy Airport Director Tom Malafronte.

“We anticipate the return to regular air carrier operations beginning at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning,” he said, but people should check with their airlines.

A blizzard warning was posted along the Seacoast with a winter storm warning up for the rest of the state.

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