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Nor'easter drops up to 18 inches of snow on NH, cuts power to 100k

Union Leader Correspondent

March 09. 2018 1:18PM
While her husband was helping to restore power for Unitil, Kingston resident Amy Cantone, who was also without power, used a snowblower for the first time to clear their driveway Thursday afternoon. (Jason Schreiber)

A strong nor’easter that walloped New Hampshire overnight Thursday dropped up to 18 inches of sticky snow that clung to trees and power lines, closed dozens of roads, and left more than 100,000 customers in the dark.

The storm came just days after another powerful nor’easter hammered the coastline with strong winds and major coastal flooding, but the problem this time around was the heavy, wet snow.

Utility crews worked around the clock to restore power to the hardest hit areas in the southern part of the state, but officials said some outages would likely linger into the weekend.

By Thursday afternoon, more than 40 roads remained closed statewide as downed trees and power lines continued to cause travel headaches.

Some schools, which cancelled classes Thursday, announced they would also be closed Friday because of the ongoing power problems and road closures.

The storm dumped 12 to 18 inches across a large area, which is what forecasters had predicted.

“It was a typical nor’easter,” said Eric Sinsbaugh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

Eversource, the state’s largest utility, reported about 25,000 outages at the height of the storm. Eversource spokesman Kaitlyn Woods said between the start of the storm on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday night, crews restored power to more than 68,000 customers.

The company had more than 300 line, service and tree crews working on the restoration effort, including some from Canada. Damage was most extensive in southeastern areas.

Unitil, which also brought in utility crews from Canada, reported a peak of 24,842 outages, with 9,000 remaining by 7 p.m.

The storm left about 16,000 Liberty Utilities customers without power. The company said some in Derry, Salem and Windham wouldn’t be back online until Sunday evening. See related story, Page A1.

In Portsmouth, Interstate 95 was shut down in both directions Thursday morning after a utility pole snapped, leaving a major transmission line hanging just feet above the roadway.

Bill Boynton, spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, said they were notified at about 8 a.m. that wires were down across the highway near Exit 3. He said since speeds were down, drivers had a chance to react.

“The good news was that nobody was injured,” Boynton said.

Boynton said drivers were turned around and rerouted from the scene.

At around 10:30 a.m. the north and south bound lanes were reopened, when officials decided to snip the wires and allow traffic to pass as they coordinated with authorities to make necessary repairs. Woods said the utility pole was damaged due to a heavy snow load. Less than 20 customers were impacted, she said.

Emergency crews also responded to reports of trees and branches on houses.

State police said Robert Rogers, 58, of Enfield died after the pickup truck he was driving was hit by a truck with a snowplow on Route 4 in Lebanon.

The crash occurred around 5:50 a.m. Thursday on Dartmouth College Highway. The driver of the truck with the plow was identified as Andrew Kannler, 48, of Grafton. The crash remains under investigation, but state police said it does not appear that impairment was a factor. Route 4 was closed near the crash for approximately 4 hours, with traffic diverted through several detours.

In Sandown, Fire Chief Wilfred Tapley said a tree caused minor damage when it struck a house on Trues Parkway. Luckily, he said, it didn’t go through the roof.

“We had a lot of trees come down, but all in all it could have been a lot worse,” he said.

With no power in her Pillsbury Pasture neighborhood and a tree toppled in the back yard, Kingston resident Amy Cantone used a snowblower for the first time to clear the driveway while her husband, who works for Unitil, helped with power restoration.

“I just want to get used to using it,” she said.

The snow was heavy, but Cantone said the snowblower was able to do the job. The only tough part was the end of the driveway where the snow kept piling up by passing snowplows, she said.

Union Leader Correspondent Kimberley Haas contributed to this report.

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