Hurricane Edna Proves More Of a Lady

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Hampton Union, Thursday, September 16, 1954

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

New Hampshire's second hurricane of the 1954 season proved to be a delayed action Saturday as weather stations charted its course up the Atlantic coastline until it reached the vicinity of Cape Cod where the "eye" split and from then on no one seemed to know where Edna would hit.

Torrential rains fell all day long in the area causing flooded cellars and swollen streams especially in the Exeter area where several dams threatened to give way under the terrific pressure.

Apprehensive watch was being maintained at three dams along the Exeter River -- and particularly in two sections of hard hit Exeter itself -- were evacuated by Coast Guard [illegible] as the waters rose over the first floor windows of their homes.

Emergency volunteer crews joined in the efforts to bolster the dams with sandbags and tons of gravel. Water continued to rise at Pickpocket dam in Exeter and did not level off until Monday morning.

Elaborate precautions were also taken at two dams further upstream in neighboring Brentwood.

Officials feared if one or the other of the Brentwood dams failed to hold, that the onrushing wall of water would also take the Pickpocket dam out.

Highway washouts were common and many roads in the seacoast area had to be blocked off because swollen streams covered them to depths of several feet causing many stalled autos.

The violent winds arrived shortly before 2 p.m. and then came in from the north west -- a quarter not expected since the hurricane blew up from the southeast but the freak of nature was explained by the splitting of the "eye".

Business places and hotels at the beach were boarded up by the owners who suffered through Carol, but the real wind came up behind the beach and did comparatively little damage.

In the town area many more trees, evidently weakened by the previous hurricane, were blown over and the electric power went off throughout the entire area for nearly 24 hours. A plate glass window in Foster's store was broken by the wind pressure.

Weary electric and telephone crews, many of them from New York and New Jersey utility companies set to work to repair the new damage even before the results of Carol has been cleaned up.

Members of the Hampton Police Auxiliary reported for duty early Saturday morning and were kept on a standby basis all day but there was little need for their services, as there were not many vacationists left at Hampton by the time the news of another hurricane was broadcast.

[Illegible] Hampton and Exeter Chapter Red Cross and Civil Defense Disaster Director again expresses deep appreciation to the many volunteers who watched the elements as they threatened the town of Hampton and Exeter last weekend.

Preparation began early Friday morning when committee chairman and the thirteen Red Cross branch chairmen wee alerted. At midnight Friday, Hampton Red Cross Disaster Chairman, Roy Gillmore and his committee were ready for the expected C.D. [Civil Defense] evacuation of 800 beach residents to the Centre School.

On duty during the night, the volunteers were already tired when 235 persons arrived Saturday morning. After registering and feeding the evacuees all day, the shelter was closed at 6:30 p.m., by the Red Cross Branch chairman, Mrs. Edwin Batchelder. Mrs. Batchelder and Mr. Gillmore express sincere appreciation to Hampton individuals who made generous contributions of food, cars, ambulance and work of the volunteers, given through the Red Cross.

Exeter's hurricane experience was a delayed action repetition of Hampton's Volunteers manned their posts at Red Cross Relief Centers from 11:30 Saturday morning until 5:30 p.m., with no work until thirty five persons were marooned in town by flood at supper time. These were offered food and shelter until roads were passable again and the shelter closed by volunteers who gratefully returned home.

The Police department whose members had braved the strong winds in furious rain were not relaxing yet, however -- the rivers were overflowing their banks and at midnight Saturday Exeter's evacuation began.

The facts of the following 29 hours are history headlined in newspapers but few people knew that progress toward security in time of disaster for Exeter was advanced that night when Exeter Red Cross Civil Defense committee proved its ability and courage to handle a tough situation. Many mistakes made the week before had been noted and equipment lacking had been secured. Volunteers awakened in the middle of the night hurried to their duties and worked together with a singleness of purpose -- to do their jobs to the best of their ability disregarding personal comfort.

At the end of the watch one thing was very sure. Mutual respect and admiration cemented the town officers and volunteer workers making up the disaster team. Each needed the other. Alone the job would have been impossible.

Mr. Harriman gave particular appreciation to Phillips Exeter Academy which donated facilities, personnel, and supplies to the Red Cross for use in the disaster period. Literally hundreds of dollars worth of shelter was provided for the utility men housed since the first hurricane and for the 84 evacuees sheltered during the flood danger, not to mention generous supplies of food and other benefits given through Red Cross to the community.

The National Red Cross will assist the Exeter District Chapter in meeting the large bills incurred in feeding the several hundred people at Hampton, Exeter, and Newfields relief stations during the two hurricanes and is prepared to lend a helping hand in rehabilitation of needed -- as part of the New England Hurricane Operation -- centered in New Bedford.

Mr. James Griswold, Red Cross Campaign Chairman pointed out that by support and funds the four thousand two hundred Red Cross members of Exeter District Chapter who enrolled in the March 1954 campaign for members played an unseen part in disaster relief throughout New England.

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