To The Daily Sun,
Five days after near-hurricane force winds cut a swath of devastation across parts of New Hampshire, NHEC line crews restored power to the last members affected by winter storm Stella.
Veteran lineworkers say the damage caused by Stella was rivaled only by the 1998 Ice Storm, which knocked out power to more than 50,000 co-op members, some for up to two weeks. By comparison, Stella's impact was less widespread — 15,000 members had lost power at the peak of the storm on March 14. But in the hardest hit areas of the northern Lakes Region, Stella left scenes of destruction that will change the local landscape.
Untold numbers of large white pine trees were toppled in the towns of Moultonborough, Center Harbor, Sandwich and Tuftonboro, where wind gusts were recorded in excess of 60 miles per hour. Falling trees blocked roads and left many areas inaccessible for days. The damage to NHEC's electrical distribution system was extreme in spots. The day after the storm passed, line crews were confronted by miles of wire on the ground and more than 100 broken poles.
The list of supplies shipped to crews in the field during the restoration effort reveals the extent of the damage:
— 117 poles
— 75 8' cross arms
— 600 insulators
— 50 transformers
— 10,000 feet of wire
While the majority of crews worked along roadsides in bucket trucks, other crews headed off-road in tracked vehicles, ATVs and snowshoes to replace poles and hang wire in locations that could not be reached by trucks. At the height of the clean-up effort, a total of 44 line crews and more than 20 tree crews were working in the northern Lakes Region.
Much of the restoration effort was centered on the Route 109 area from Route 25 in Moultonborough to Center Tuftonboro. In the days following the storm, the normally quiet road was abuzz with activity as crews from the N.H. Department of Transportation, electric, cable and phone utilities and logging operations maneuvered around each other's work areas and coordinated their efforts to open roads and restore services.
A restoration of this magnitude required a cooperative effort. NHEC is grateful for the help it received from crews from Vermont Electric Cooperative, Eversource and a number of contract line and tree crews. NHEC also wishes to thank representatives of the state Department of Transportation, local emergency services and municipal officials for their close cooperation during the storm and recovery. Special thanks go to the Sandwich and Moultonborough highway departments for their extraordinary efforts.
NHEC also wishes to thank its members for their overwhelming support of our crews. Despite some members being without power for as much as five days, line crews in the field encountered nothing but patience and gratitude from NHEC members. Numerous acts of kindness, large and small, kept spirits high during the clean-up. Thank you to Bob Jones and the Village Kitchen in Moultonborough for serving free breakfast to line crews. Thank you to the Cup and Crumb restaurant in Moultonborough for delivering food to our lineworkers in the field. Thank you to Daphne at the Circle K Irving in Meredith, who gave Dunkin Donuts gift cards to our crews. Thank you to the people of Moultonborough who purchased Girl Scout cookies at their town meeting for delivery to our lineworkers. Thank you to the many members who acknowledged our crews with signs in their driveways or a thumbs-up and a wave.
Our members displayed the best spirit of a cooperative during this storm. We are grateful to them as well as our employees, sister utilities and vendors for their support.
Storm-related clean-up will continue throughout this week as crews work with homeowners to restore service lines and clean up broken poles and other system debris along the roadsides and rights-of-way. If you are awaiting reconnection after repairs to your service line, please contact NHEC at 1-800-698-2007.
Seth Wheeler, APR
New Hampshire Electric Cooperative