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'We don't have snow days ... for elections'

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 13. 2017 4:15AM
Auburn voters cast ballots the 2013 town election. (Union Leader file)

A Nor'easter threatening to dump a foot or more over much of New Hampshire on Tuesday won't stop the polls from opening for town elections and ballot questions.

"We don't have snow days in the law for elections," Secretary of State William Gardner said Sunday.

Gardner, who noted voters came out in a snowstorm for the state's 1984 presidential primary, said town meetings themselves can be rescheduled until another day.

Snow is expected to sweep into the state's southern tier starting Tuesday morning, when polls open in many towns for voters to elect town and school officials and decide on issues such as town budgets and new fire stations.

"Plan to vote early," said Michael Cempa, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. "It looks good for at least double-digit snowfall at this point."

"It definitely will suppress turnout," said Epping town moderator Bob Goodrich, who pointed out two days of deliberative sessions this year fell on days with "big snowstorms," leading to one session being postponed.

The heaviest snowfall will be Tuesday afternoon into the evening, with snow expected to end Wednesday morning, said Margaret Curtis of the National Weather Service.

Cempa said most of New Hampshire should expect at least 10 inches, with some areas possibly receiving up to 18 inches.

Gusty winds, especially along the Seacoast, could knock out power to some customers, according to Unitil spokesman Alec O'Meara.

"Our forecasts are showing a high volume of snow along with gusty winds Tuesday into Wednesday," he said. "Hazardous conditions capable of causing outages are possible in all of our regions, though currently the risk appears a little higher closer to the coast as snow there may be a little wetter in consistency and the gusts higher in force. We've already begun securing additional crews to assist."

Unitil's service area includes parts of Rockingham County and the Greater Concord area. On Saturday, Concord tied its "coldest high temperature" record of 18 degrees for that day, originally set back in 1874.

Students in some school districts, including Bedford and Litchfield, already don't have school on Tuesday. Both Manchester-area districts are holding workshops.

Several airlines were allowing people with flights Tuesday or Wednesday to or from Manchester or Boston to change them to another day without penalty.

Southwest Airlines, American, Delta and United all offered that opportunity, but passengers should check the rules on airline websites for rules and time restrictions.

This winter's 57.3 inches in Concord is running ahead of the normal snowfall of 52.2 inches. This time last year, Concord had seen 24.7 inches.

Manchester this winter has received 54.8 inches versus 23 inches last year.

The record snowstorm for this period happened March 11-13, 1888, when 27.5 inches fell in Concord.

"To make the top 10, it would need to be over 18 inches, which isn't completely out of the realm of possibilities," Curtis said.

A 1993 blizzard that struck New Hampshire on March 13 and 14 dropped 17 inches of snow in Concord, missing the top 10 list.

Unlike some past storms this winter, "we're not expecting any rain mix," Curtis said. "This will be all snow."

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