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New Englanders Cope With Widespread Power Outages

This article is more than 9 years old.
Luke Russell works on clearing a fallen tree in Farmington, N.H., Friday. (AP)
Luke Russell works on clearing a fallen tree in Farmington, N.H., Friday. (AP)

Almost 25,000 people in Massachusetts are still without power, mostly in the northeastern part of the state, after Thursday night’s windy storm. The storm also brought heavy rain, sent waves crashing over seawalls in coastal communities, tore roofs off buildings and threatened to breach a dam in Freetown.

At one point, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said 100,000 people in the Bay State were without power.

But the damage is much worse in New Hampshire, where about 265,000 people were without power Saturday. Gov. John Lynch has declared a state of emergency.

The winds really hammered the southern part of New Hampshire and the sea coast. Power was even knocked out to the state emergency operations center. It’s running on a generator, where Colin Manning, a spokesman for the New Hampshire governor, said the damage is widespread.

“These strong winds, which gusted to 60 miles an hour, brought down trees,” Manning said. “A lot of reports of trees in the road. In some instances, the power lines are tangled up in trees that are lying in the road.”

On Friday morning, 50 state highways and more than 100 roads were closed. Throughout the day, crews made progress reopening them for traffic.

MAP: Power outages in New Hampshire as of 1 p.m. Friday.
MAP: Power outages in New Hampshire as of 1 p.m. Friday.

Meanwhile, utility crews worked to restore power. New Hampshire Public Utilities Commissioner Tom Getz said trees brought down some subtransmission lines and circuits. He said when power companies get those back up and running, that would restore electricity to large numbers of people.

Utilities will work out from there, working in bigger population centers first. Getz estimated it would take one week to restore power everywhere.

Some towns are totally without power, and they’re setting up shelters. In other places, the outages are spotty and people without electricity can go stay with neighbors who still have it. But it’s more than power. All that rain flooded a lot of basements.

“We still don’t have power,” said Melissa Copp, of Fremont, N.H. “We had flooding. And we have an ice cream shop, and so that’s no power and we’re trying to save our ice cream.”

Copp has three freezers full with about $16,000 worth of ice cream in them. She’s keeping them running on a generator.

State officials are focusing on assessing the damage, clearing downed power lines and making roads safe for travel. But they’re also worried about people staying in their homes without power. Colin Manning warned residents not to use gas heaters indoors, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

That was an issue last winter when an ice storm knocked out power to more than 400,000 people in New Hampshire. Chris Pope, the state’s director of homeland security and emergency management, said his emergency operations staff is doing a better job this time around.

“We heard loud and clear during the December ice storm of 2008 that some citizens that didn’t have power had a difficult time getting the information where shelters were or where bottled water could be obtained," Pope said.

State officials are letting each town’s public safety officials decide whether shelters are needed locally and where to set them up. If you’re in New Hampshire, you can dial 2-1-1 to find out where the nearest shelter is.

This program aired on February 26, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Curt Nickisch Twitter Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.

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