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Flooding swamps Seacoast, about a foot of snow for NH as nor'easter roars through

Union Leader Correspondent

January 05. 2018 9:41AM
Braced for blowing snow, an umbrella-wielding pedestrian crosses Commercial Street in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
NH snow totals
Here are some New Hampshire snowfall totals reported by National Weather Service spotters after Thursday's storm:

Belknap County
: 14"
Sanbornton: 11"

Carroll County
No. Conway:
: 10.3"
Wolfeboro: 10.2"
Sandwich: 9.3"

Cheshire County
: 15.4"
Keene: 10.6"
Alstead: 10.5"

Coos County
: 15"
Randolph: 14"
Berlin: 9"

Grafton County
Sugar Hill:
: 9.9"
Plymouth: 8"
Holderness: 8"

Hillsborough County
: 15"
Weare: 14"
Nashua: 13"

Merrimack County
: 15.5"
Concord: 13"
Bradford: 12.3"

Rockingham County
: 15"
Windham: 14.3"
Stratham: 12.3"

Strafford County
: 13.5"
Somersworth: 12"
Strafford: 9.5"

HAMPTON — The intense nor’easter that came barreling up the New England coastline Thursday dumped more than a foot of snow in many New Hampshire towns, but caused the most serious public safety threat on the Seacoast, stranding motorists in cars and shutting down many roads.

More than 700 schools throughout New Hampshire closed. Many city and town halls, including Manchester and Nashua, sent their workers home early and even the iconic Market Basket supermarket chain shut all its doors Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

But the real danger came from the combination of astronomical high tides at 1 p.m. and the resulting storm surge. This led to widespread flooding in parts of Hampton Beach along with Rye and Seabrook.

Hampton Police Chief Rich Sawyer said the flooding on Ashworth Avenue was the worst he’s seen in his nearly 40 years in town.

“It was a definite increase from what we’ve seen in the past and it took the water a lot longer to recede because of the ice and snow,” he said.

Some parts of the street were under four feet of water, and at one point the police station was inaccessible because of the flooding.

Hampton Fire Chief Jameson Ayotte said firefighters rescued 10 people from vehicles and nine people from homes that experienced utility issues or had floodwater that prevented access.

“This was the worst flooding I’ve ever seen in town,” Ayotte said.

No injuries or significant damage were reported.

“I think the first responders have done a terrific job in getting the resources that people needed,” said Gov. Chris Sununu. “There were people dealing with basement flooding their furnaces. As the water recedes, there will still be road closures.”

Warming shelters were opened in Bedford, Derry, Dover, Hampton Falls, Keene, Lebanon, Nashua, Rochester, and Salem.

This first storm of 2018 was so anticipated it revived talk of a weather phenomenon known as "bombogenesis," a bomb cyclone or low pressure system that steeply falls in just 24 hours.

Fortunately for New Hampshire, the storm started Thursday morning and stayed as snow; many Massachusetts coastal towns faced a more dangerous onset of snow mixing with freezing rain and sleet.

In Boston, officials reported the highest tide since 1921 was reached, beating the previous record set during the Blizzard of ‘78.

By 6 p.m. Thursday, there were 20,000 without power in Massachusetts as major power outages were reported in a blizzard of coastal towns in that state stretching from Cape Ann all the way south to Cape Cod.

As Sununu warned, power outages shot up to more than 4,000 by 9 p.m. Thursday night, with most Eversource customers of Farmington (1,893) without power. By 9 a.m. Friday, the utility was reporting only a smattering, with 25 customers in Nashua being the largest outage.

By 9 p.m. the number of towns with more than a foot of snow were in double digits led by Henniker (15.5 inches), Seabrook (15), Windham (14.3), Weare, Gilmanton, Rindge and Bedford (all 14 apiece), Hudson (13.7),  Dover (13.5) Hanover (13.5), Hudson (12.8), Marlborough (12).

Given the forecasted wind chills and the clean up that remained, many school administrators decided to give the children a long weekend that started Thursday. Among those districts that canceled classes for a second, straight day today were Manchester, Nashua, Merrimack, Londonderry, Litchfield, Candia, Derry, Merrimack, Portsmouth, Rye, Hampton, Greenland, Alstead and Walpole.

New Hampshire transportation officials reported difficult driving conditions in all but Coos County. Driving was slow on all major southern thoroughfares, Interstates 93 and 95, the Everett Turnpike and Route 16.

In Concord, legislative offices closed at 10 a.m. and the state prison stopped allowing visitors. Manchester City Hall closed at noon, sending workers home early; Nashua followed suit at 2 p.m.

Accidents were relatively minor, said New Hampshire State Police Lt. John Hennessey.

“Everyone’s doing pretty well. Everyone’s taking it slow. Overall, it’s been a pretty good success today,” said Hennessey, shortly before the evening commute.

He said the most challenging area was west of Exit 5 on Route 101. A multiple-car pileup forced officials to close the highway in the Auburn area for more than an hour. Troopers directed a traffic detour at exit 3.

“We try to keep the highway open as long as we can. But there was a curve, vehicles were off on both sides of the road, cars were coming around the corner and there was nowhere to stop,” he said.

A state police cruiser stopped at the crash was sideswiped; the cruiser lost its sideview mirror, but the trooper was out of the car and unhurt.

“The traffic volume was down throughout the day,” said Bill Boynton, chief spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. “This really helped keep the number of accidents down.”

Through 6 p.m. there were 90 crashes reported.

Back on the Seacoast

Hampton firefighters reported major flooding along some streets and at one point the floodwaters reached the Hampton Beach fire station. Ashworth, Brown and Highland avenues were among the roads closed.

Flooding also forced the closure of Lafayette Road near the Hampton Falls town line.

In Seabrook, flooding closed Route 286 from Route 1A to South Main Street.

The storm surge shut down a section of Route 1A in Rye as well.

A few spectators braved the elements to check out the surf at Hampton Beach before high tide.

Rick Shea of Newington got out of work early at the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant and decided to swing by on his way home for a couple of photos.

“It’s fascinating to see the waves,” he said as his face was pelted by the wind-driven snow.

Norman Lavoie, 78, has seen many ferocious storms in his 46 years living at the beach.

“I’m kind of used to it,” he said after venturing outside to get his mail.

While many of the businesses along Ocean Boulevard are closed for the season, the Hampton Harbor Motel is open year-round and had at least one guest who needed a place to stay after water pipes burst at home.

Andrea Stellmach, the hotel’s housekeeping manager, said the hotel would remain open.

Staff reporters Mark Hayward and Paul Feely contributed to this article.

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