Power restoration slow process for thousands of homes, businesses

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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)


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.”

Ramblin’ Vewe

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.”

Tedious effort

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.”

Damage area

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.

Eversource expects restoration to be substantially complete throughout New Hampshire by Fridaymorning, but numerous communities have already achieved that milestone. Customers are being provided town-by-town restoration estimates on the company's website and through its social media channels.
"While the storm caused significant damage to our system and resulted in many blocked roads, we continue to make great progress by working around the clock to get power restored to all of our customers as quickly as possible," said Eversource NH Vice President of Electric Operations Joe Purington. "In the past 24 hours, we've restored power to all impacted public schools in New Hampshire, and remain confident that all of our customers in the communities we serve will have their lights on before the weekend."
According to the Eversource website, Laconia, Gilford and Belmont are expected to be fully restored by Friday morning. Meredith is considered fully restored now.

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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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Don’t wait to sign up

There are just six weeks to enroll in health care plans


LACONIA — Sen. Maggie Hassan, state Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny and Gov. Chris Sununu are urging people to be mindful of the Affordable Care Act's shortened open enrollment period, which began Wednesday and concludes Dec. 15.

The Trump administration cut in half the yearly period when people can enroll in a health insurance plan. It previously ran to Jan. 31.

The administration has also slashed funding for advertising aimed at letting people know about the yearly period for people to enroll in a health insurance plan.

Also, the website, www.HealthCare.gov, where many people sign up for health insurance, will be shut down for maintenance for portions of most Sundays during the open enrollment period.

Outside open enrollment, generally a person can enroll in a health insurance plan only in the case of certain life events, like getting married, having a baby, or losing other health coverage.

Hassan gave a speech in the Senate Wednesday encouraging people to sign up for a health care plan at www.CoveringNewHampshire.org or www.HealthCare.gov.

“It is also important for people to take this opportunity to see what other plans are available, to shop around, and see if other plans offer more savings than your current one does,” she said.

The governor also issued a statement about the open enrollment period.

“Residents who will be purchasing a plan need to be aware that rates have gone up by an average of 52 percent,” Sununu said. “This is due to failure to reform Obamacare and rising medical and pharmaceutical costs.

“However, the 29,000 people in New Hampshire who receive a federal subsidy through HealthCare.gov likely won’t see a difference in what they pay, because their subsidies will increase as well. The 24,000 residents who don’t qualify for a subsidy or who don’t shop on HealthCare.gov face large premium increases.

“Everyone who is purchasing a health insurance plan for 2018 should shop around, just as they would for any other big purchase, even if they like the plan they have now – there may be another plan out there that’s more affordable or that has a better network of health care providers.”
He noted that the New Hampshire Insurance Department has information and resources for people who are shopping for a plan or who have problems with their coverage. The department can be reached at www.nh.gov/insurance/ or by calling (800) 852-3416.

People are advised that even if they signed up for insurance through HealthCare.gov for 2017, they still should return to the site to update their information and compare options for 2018 as plans change.

Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny had a warning for those who don't compare medical insurance options.

“If you don't shop around, you may end up paying more for coverage than you need to or end up with a plan that does not include your doctors or prescription drugs,” he said.

Also, some plans are not available next year. In New Hampshire, all Minuteman Health plans on the individual exchange will terminate on Dec. 31. People enrolled in these plans will be enrolled in a comparable plan through HealthCare.gov, if they do not select a new plan themselves.

Those who choose to go without health insurance may have to pay a penalty of $695 or more.
Free help is available by calling 1-800-318-2596. or visiting localhelp.healthcare.gov.

Insurance agents and brokers can also help people enroll in a plan.The state Insurance Department maintains a list of such agents and brokers at:

Outage hurts for businesses

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Three days without refrigeration forced the Gilford Airport Country Store to throw its milk products into the dumpster. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Restaurants toss inventory and lose two days of sales


GILFORD — Businesses are tallying up their losses after having been forced to close due to the loss of power brought about by Monday’s high winds.
Patrick’s Pub in Gilford, which saw power restored Wednesday, reopened at 4 yesterday afternoon after having been shut down for two days.
Allan Beetle, co-owner, said that the popular restaurant and entertainment spot lost at least $10,000 in revenue.
“Thankfully, it was Monday and Tuesday of our slow season,” said Beetle, who said that there was a loss of about $2,000 in food, already prepped, which had to be tossed out.
He said that the coolers, which are tied in to the restaurant’s walk-in freezer, were helped in being kept cold enough through the use of bagged ice from two large ice machines on the premises.
Beetle said that many employees were affected by the closing.
“Aside from our management team, who are on salary, everyone else works on hourly and tips, so many employees have been impacted as well,” he said.
Beetle said that the outage might be “the straw that broke the camel’s back, when it comes to dealing with outages.
“Perhaps this outage will put us over the top and we'll finally make the investment into a generator to stay open through these outages. We lost a Saturday night this summer, which cost more than these two days put together.”
Beetle said that some of the cost of the food, which was lost, is expected to be covered by insurance.
Also feeling the impact of the prolonged outage was the nearby Fireside Inn and Suites, located across Route 11-B from Patrick’s, which was closed for three days.
A spokesperson at the inn, which reopened yesterday afternoon, said, “We had no power and no guests for three days,” but had no estimate of lost revenue, which he said would be determined by the chain’s management.
At the Airport Country Store and Deli on Route 11 in Gilford, losses for the two-and-a-half days in which the store was closed was estimated at $6,000.
That didn’t include all of the prepped food and deli items, which were tossed out, said Julie Drew, deli manager at the business, which saw power restored around 1 p.m. Wednesday.
“I threw away everything. There’s no sense taking a chance. If the outage had only been for 24 hours we would have been all right,” said Drew, who said she itemized all the items which were lost and that will be submitted to the company’s insurer. “I ordered all fresh items and we’ll reopen Thursday morning but won’t have our usual variety until Friday."
As she spoke, potential customers, seeing activity inside the store, pulled up to the gas pumps and tried to fill their gas tanks.
Drew told them that the computers which run the pumps were in the process of being brought online and it would be a few minutes before they were working again.
She said the store also lost a substantial amount of revenue from gasoline sales.
A spokesperson at Walmart, which reopened Wednesday morning, said that any information on the impact of the storm would have to come from the company’s Arkansas headquarters.
The store manager at Shaw’s in Gilford, which remained open with backup power, was not available for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Funspot, the world’s largest arcade, reopened Wednesday after having been closed since Monday, as were most businesses in The Weirs area. A spokesperson declined comment on the loss of business due to the storm.

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The Gilford Airport Country Store was able to open on Wednesday, but its popular lunch business was still closed for lack of ingredients. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)