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Snow, winds knock out power as late-winter storm hits; Girl, 16, killed in crash

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 15. 2017 9:04AM

All is quiet at Arms Park during a Nor'easter in Manchester on Tuesday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

A late-winter nor’easter blew across New Hampshire on Tuesday, blanketing much of the state with more than a foot of snow and knocking out power to thousands.

A 16-year-old Gilford girl lost control of her car on a snow-covered Route 11A and struck a tree about 7 a.m. Police identified her as Ava Doris, a sophomore at Gilford High School and the daughter of emergency dispatcher Tim Doris.

She was rushed to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia, where she was pronounced dead.

“Ava was a beautiful young woman who held so much promise for our family,” aunt Beth Doris-Gustin said.

One of Ava’s close friends, Joanna Griffiths of Belmont, said it will be tough to go on without Ava.

“She had the ability to see the good in everyone, no matter what their story may have been. She truly was just an angel visiting the earth for a short amount of time,” Griffiths said.

Town police announced a website taking donations for the Doris family,

Another site was set up to help pay the family’s funeral costs,

Car crashes and spin-outs were reported statewide, including two state snowplows and a salt spreader getting struck by other vehicles, said Bill Boynton, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

“These vehicles are out of commission and that’s a big deal because we don’t have a lot of back-ups,” Boynton said.

While travel volume was down significantly, there were still 70 accidents reported on state roads by 2 p.m.

The state had about 700 snowplows and other equipment out on the roads, where blizzard conditions were widespread by early afternoon. By 6:30 p.m., Laconia had the highest, reported snowfall total of 18 inches.

High winds, power outages

Utility crews struggled to keep up with the storm. Countless trees blew over onto homes and roads, leaving many impassable.

“The Seacoast is where you will see that is where the majority of the outages are for our customers as well as from Unitil, which has a large chunk of customers in that region as well,” said Martin Murray, Eversource’s chief spokesman.

Coastal winds reached a peak on the Isle of Shoals, which recorded a 75 mph gust after 3 p.m. The National Weather Service recorded high wind gusts in Bristol (56), Newington (59), Meredith (51), Derry (50) and Sunapee (49).

“We are restoring what we can safely,” said Unitil Vice President Carol Valianti, noting trucks to replace downed poles can’t function in winds over 35 mph.

First responders and utility officials reported that downed power lines caused many of the outages and forced road closures for much of the day in Plaistow, Londonderry and Pelham.

The University of New Hampshire experienced a campus-wide outage in Durham.

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Eversource was reporting 3,082 customers still without power, mostly in the Franklin and Seacoast areas. Unitil had 3,665 customers without electricity, most of them in Hampton, while the N.H. Electric Coop had 11,729 customers without power, mostly in the Lakes Region.

Officials warned people to beware of and to stay away from downed power lines. 

A house on Main Street in Hampstead sustained structural damage while others on Gale Village Avenue and Howard Lane in Newton were also damaged by fallen trees.

The railroad crossing gate at the tracks on Front Street in Exeter was also broken in the storm, prompting police to warn drivers not to cross if the lights were flashing. 

By early evening, much of Hampton was without power.

"As a result of the heavy, wet snow and high winds, several trees have fallen. Wires are down all over town. Many of these wires are power lines," Hampton Fire Chief Jameson Ayotte said.

He urged residents to call their local fire departments and to stay away from any downed lines. 

Utility companies were reporting early evening that not only on the Seacoast but some small towns in the Lakes Region had most of their customers in the dark. As of 6:30 p.m., Sandwich (96% of customers) and Moultonborough (97%) were in that number.

By 6:30 p.m., Laconia had the highest reported snowfall total of 18 inches, followed by New London (17), Milford (16), Ossipee (15), Manchester (14), Concord (12.5), Hudson (12), Merrimack (11.8), New Boston (10.6) and Hollis (10.5).

Driving treacherous

The DOT lowered speed limits to 45 mph on major highways, including all of Interstate 89 and most of I-93.

“I haven’t really driven very much today, but it seems like chaos,” John O’Keefe of Manchester said after stopping to help push a minivan struggling to make it up a hill. “It’s awful — terrible.”

O’Keefe wasn’t looking forward to his commute to the U.S. Air Force station in New Boston, where he works on the security team. He said the drive generally takes 15-20 minutes, but he was leaving two hours early.

“The wife and the baby are hunkered down at home with tons food,” O’Keefe said. “I went out yesterday and did the typical hoarding type of shopping for the snowpocalypse.”

Boynton said the state did not pre-treat the turnpikes and major roads with brine solution due to the nature of the snow and the cold temperatures on Monday.

“It was felt that morning commuters would actually help blow the lighter, drier snow off the roads, which they did,” Boynton said. There was limited use of salt through the morning hours.”

The state allowed non-essential employees to leave at 1 p.m.; the New Hampshire Liquor Commission shut down all 79 liquor and wine outlets at 3 p.m.

“We’re going to stay at home, wait for it to end and then use the snowblower,” Nathan Buczek of Epping said outside a Market Basket. “That’s about it.”

The state’s air travel also came to a halt as airlines canceled all Tuesday departures and arrivals at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

Manchester trash and recycling trucks were pulled off the road for safety reasons. Customers not serviced Tuesday were asked to remove their items from the curb as soon as possible and put them out again today at 7 a.m.

Staff reporters Kevin Landrigan and Pat Grossmith and Correspondents Dan Seufert and Jason Schreiber contributed to this report.

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