Asplundh worker Billy Comeau, of Lancaster, carefully cuts away sections of a tree that fell across Dockham Shores Road in Gilford. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — As thousands of people in the Lakes Region remained without power Wednesday, Joyce Keyser was one of the lucky ones who saw her lights come back on.
“I am so grateful to all the people who have worked so damn hard to get everything online,” said Keyser, who works on the Ramblin' Vewe Farm with her husband, Jeff, the property's manager.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Eversource was reporting about 40,000 customers still without power, two days after a major storm packing winds of more than 60 mph blew through the area. New Hampshire Electrical Co-op had about 15,000 customers still down. Predictions called for power to be restored to most of these customers by Friday.
Some areas had as much as 5 inches of rain within 36 hours as a cold front from the west combined with a tropical storm as it moved north, the National Weather Service said.
Some of the hardest hit areas were in Gilford, where 2,095 homes and businesses had no electrical service, Laconia (1,052), Tilton (2,486), Barnstead (2,000) and Belmont (1,249).
Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson said there were no local reports of injuries related to the storm. His firefighters were kept busy both with calls of trees into power lines, transformer fires and medical calls associated with people who did not have electrical power.
Injuries are always a concern in such emergencies.
“People are out there using chain saws and trying to fix things, and accidents may happen,” he said. “Trees can go into houses and may start fires. People without power use candles and that can start fires.”
On the best of days, it is windy at the Ramblin' Vewe Farm, so Keyser knew there would be property damage when the winds began to howl early Monday. Still, she feels they got off lightly.
“The wind was wicked,” she said. “We think there was a microburst and a tree came down on our sugar shack. A tree came down on one of the trails in back. The wind blew off some of the shingles on our house.”
An old gas-powered generator kept refrigeration going in her farm store, so food did not spoil.
“We didn't lose anything, thank the Lord,” she said.
The couple didn't have any heat or light. They warmed some water in a turkey fryer to do the dishes.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
Ron Dudley was asleep at a home his wife owns on Wentworth Cove Road, in Laconia, when the storm intensified early on Monday morning. He was awakened at around 2:15 a.m. by the sound of dozens of pine cones pelting the house.
“There was just a sharp blast of wind, it shook the house so bad we thought a chimney had blown off. Then we could hear thud! Thud! Thud! We think that was the blast.” That “blast” of wind, he suspects, was what topped tall pine trees like dominoes on a property in the neighborhood. Some of the trees crushed the neighbor’s jet skis and a pickup truck.
There wasn’t any damage to Dudley’s wife’s home, but at a home that has been in his family since 1934, the pine trees weren’t so kind. Dudley is the owner of a lakeside cottage built by his step-father eight decades ago on Dockham Shores Road in Gilford. There, a large pine tree was pulled up by its roots and fell across the cottage’s front steps. Another tree on the property snapped about 30 feet from the ground, and the towering treetop fell through a garage.
Dudley is remaining calm through the ordeal.
“To me, the damage is done. It happened, I can’t change what happened,” he said. “I’m just hoping that the insurance company will be fair to me.”
Kaitlyn Woods, a spokeswoman for Eversource, said the sheer number of damaged power lines and broken poles has slowed the effort to restore electrical service.
Initially after the storm, the focus was on restoring substations that went down. After that, it was the painstaking and time-consuming work of repairing the system, pole by pole.
Some major power lines can be miles from the customers they serve, so the public doesn't always see the utility work that is being done behind the scenes to repair wind damage.
“You guys had some of the highest winds throughout the storm,” Woods said. “Meredith had a wind gust of 68 mph.
“The damage was incredibly extensive, with trees down on power lines and broken poles. We have to clear away the tree damage, then replace the pole, then put up a new transformer and pull the lines.”
Seth Wheeler, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Electrical Co-op, said the large size of the area affected makes the repair job harder.
“We had about 600 different locations in our service territory where there were problems,” he said. “One tree could bring down several spans of wire. If a broken pole occurs in the wrong spot, several thousand people could be affected at once.
“The general rule of thumb is that to a replace a pole, it's a 4- to 6-hour job,” he said.
He attributes the heavy damage to the nature of the storm, which occurred over a wide area and brought heavy rains that loosened the soil and strong winds that damaged trees made vulnerable because they have been slow to lose leaves during a warm October.
Gov. Chris Sununu issued a statement after touring storm damage in Carroll and Grafton counties.
“The resiliency of New Hampshire is inspiring,” he said. “I am encouraged by Granite Staters strength, determination, and compassion as they work to rebuild their homes, repair their roads, and support their neighbors.”
As of early afternoon Wednesday, Eversource had restored power to more than 265,000 New Hampshire customers, with fewer than 40,000 Eversource customers in the Granite State remaining without power.
A pine tree snapped in half at a property on Dockham Shores Road, then cut a garage in half when it landed. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
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