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Storm aftermath: Some still waiting for lights to come back on

Union Leader Correspondent
New Hampshire Union Leader

March 15. 2017 8:18PM
Fire destroyed Catalano's Market in Seabrook early Wednesday morning. (COURTESY/Hampton Fire Chief Jameson Ayotte)
Snow superlatives
Deepest accumulation in each New Hampshire county, according to the National Weather Service:

• Belknap: Laconia, 18 inches

• Carroll: East Wakefield, 21 inches

• Cheshire: Alstead, 15.5 inches

• Coos: Randolph, 21.5 inches

• Grafton: Bristol, 16.6 inches

• Hillsborough: Brookline,17.3 inches

• Merrimack: Newbury, 21.5 inches

• Rockingham: Stratham, 23.6 inches

• Strafford: Dover, 14.5 inches

• Sullivan: Unity, 17 inches

The aftermath of winter storm Stella echoed through New Hampshire Wednesday, leaving thousands without power in the Lakes Region, a surf-generated mess on the Seacoast and the collapse of two athletic domes in southern New Hampshire.

The hardest hit was the Lakes Region. Broad swaths of towns were without power and telecommunications. Toppled trees and power lines forced officials to close portions of Routes 109, 140 and 107 throughout Wednesday.

In Center Harbor, a family huddled in their basement after a pine 24 inches in diameter crashed into their home at 188 Follett Road. The impact shattered five windows, cracked the ceiling and flung Jessica Braley, 16, to the floor.

When other trees near the house started bowing in the wind, the family of four fled into the basement, said Colleen Ahlquist, Braley’s aunt.

“I’m just glad that everyone is all right,” Ahlquist said.

As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, New Hampshire Electric Coop reported 7,741 of its members without power; 9.5 percent of the coop’s membership. Telephone and internet service were also disrupted for hours.

Contract crews and crews from Vermont arrived on Wednesday, NHEC said in a statement. But they confronted a lengthy task — 2,000 feet of downed wire off Metcalf Road in Sandwich. There was more than a mile of damage to a power line in Tuftonboro’s Melvin Village.

The NHEC expected that most customers would have their power restored by Wednesday evening, but said customers in Tuftonboro will likely have to wait until sometime today.

The top of the Hampshire Dome in Milford lies on the ground Wednesday afternoon after it collapsed shortly after noon. (Kimberly Houghton)

Domes collapsed

In Milford and Rindge, two massive domes that envelope athletic fields collapsed.

Hampshire Dome in Milford collapsed around noontime on Wednesday. Three workers were on the dome trying to clear snow when the weight of ice and snow caused it to depressurize and collapse, Hampshire Hills said.

Four were inside and escaped unhurt. The building was cordoned off with yellow caution tape on Wednesday. 

“It is uninhabitable,” said Milford Fire Chief Jack Kelly. 

At Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, the campus Bubble suffered damage about 4 p.m. Tuesday, the college said. A team was due there Wednesday and hoped to repair the structure before students return from this week’s spring break, the college said.

While snow accumulations approached two feet in a few areas, high winds did the most damage. The wind toppled trees and tree limbs, which blocked roads and pulled down wires, said Alan Hanscom, the Lakes Region DOT district engineer.

“I’m not a small man, and (a gust) almost blew me over,” David Hughes, deputy fire chief of Center Harbor, said.

The sidewalks and parking spaces along the Ocean Boulevard seawall in Hampton Beach were covered with sand blown off the beach by Tuesday's storm. The state says it will take up to two weeks to clean up the mess. (JASON SCHREIBER/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Buried under sand

The Weather Service recorded gusts of 62 mph in Newington, 58 in Portsmouth and 51 in Meredith.

The fierce wind deposited a frozen slurry of sand and snow on the Hampton Beach sidewalk, as well as vehicles parked at the beach.

A nearly two-mile stretch from Boar’s Head to Haverhill Street was left with a solid two feet of sand, said Amy Bassett, public information officer for the state Division of Parks and Recreation.

She predicted it will likely take a couple of weeks to finish the work.

Snow bonanza

Other areas of the state suffered less damage. Schools were delayed for two hours in Manchester, but roads were passable Wednesday morning. 

In the mountains, Ski NH issued a power alert and predicted that some ski areas will be able to stay open until mid-April.

“There is no doubt that this snow will do wonders for ski area business,” said Jessyca Keeler, the executive director of Ski NH.

Of course, blizzards can bring out the best in New Hampshire people.

Sandwich Town Clerk Sharon Teel endured town election day while the blizzard raged outside her Town Hall door. The storm kept most election workers from showing up,

When it came time to count the ballots, the power was out at town hall. Short-staffed, the few election workers soldiered on and counted, despite heavy eyelids and low light. 

Teel and her coworkers got home Tuesday night thanks to an escort — Sandwich highway crew snowplows.

“They plowed the way home for us,” Teel said, “and led us along some detours along the way knowing where trees were down.”

Union Leader Correspondents Kimberly Houghton, Jason Schreiber and John Koziol contributed to this article.

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