Coast Area Escapes Worst of Hurricane Donna

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Hampton Union, Thursday, September 15, 1960

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

Damage caused in the Hampton area by Hurricane Donna Monday night is expected to run into the tens of thousands of dollars, but local police and Civil Defense authorities expressed relief that the powerful storm failed to bring the high tides and destructive winds that had been forecast.

Ample storm warning and efficient action by various agencies kept property damage to a minimum along the coast and inland. Many Seacoast area towns were without electric power for varying periods of time, but most power was restored in a matter of two or three hours.

Hampton Beach was evacuated under the direction of Douglass E. Hunter, Hampton Civil Defense director, and more than 150 evacuees were housed during the height of the storm at the beach fire station and at the Marston School.

Gale winds swept tons of sand from the beach onto Ocean Boulevard, but no serious flooding or significant accumulations of rock and debris was washed into the streets, as has happened in many storms in the past.

Numerous signboards at the beach were toppled and large panes of glass were broken at the Anchorage Restaurant, Guyon's Service Station, The Standish Hotel, the Ela Mesa Gift Shop, and other beach business places. In Hampton center, windows were broken at the Hampton Cooperative Bank and the Dining Oil Company, by the strong winds.

Trees blew over in many places, dragging down electric and telephone lines. Electric power was not restored to the Smith's Grove area on North Shore and North Beach roads until about noon Tuesday, but in most other areas trees were cleared from the road and lines connected promptly as Exeter and Hampton Electric, as well as telephone company crews, worked through the night

Many persons reported shutters and shingles blown off their houses, but there was no record of roofs blowing off or of trees falling over onto houses or automobiles in the Hampton area.


At Hampton Harbor at least a dozen small craft and a number of larger boats were ripped loose from their moorings between 6 and 9 p.m. Many were rescued by Coast Guardsmen from the Hampton Beach station, while others were swept high on the marshes or onto sand bars by the 80-mile per hour winds. The Coast Guard kept its boats manned throughout the storm.

One of the 40-foot party boats owned by Alfred Gauron broke its mooring near the state pier and was beached half a mile up Hampton River. His other 40-footer took on water until it sank near the pier. The Coast Guard early Tuesday morning dragged the Alice G onto the beach at high tide and later pumped it out.

The heavy party boat Annie and Josephine, owned by Smith and Gilmore, had a section of the bow pulled loose as the waves tossed the boat hard against its mooring, but the craft held to its chain and remained afloat. It was removed from the water Tuesday for repairs.

A number of pleasure boats were lifted from the water at the Hampton Beach Marina by the Holly Hoist, operated by George Smith. Many other boat owners moved their craft to the basin of the marina for protection. All boats docked in the marina weathered the storm with no damage, as marine operators used 500 feet of new rope to secure the boats.

Serious damage by flooding was averted as the tide was ebbing before the center of the hurricane struck. Although the Coast Guard was warned to expect tides seven to ten feet above normal, BM/C Frank A. Christoph of the Hampton Beach station said the Monday evening tide was only 1½ or 2 feet above normal.

The center of the storm passed Hampton about 8 p.m., when a low pressure reading of 28.55 inches was recorded by Ralph Sanborn of Hampton Falls. The barometer climbed swiftly thereafter and the sky cleared immediately. Winds remained strong from the west and southwest, however, into the morning.

Sanborn reported 3.62 inches of rain fell in Hampton Falls between Sunday noon and 10 p.m. Monday, but he attributed only 2.71 inches of this to the hurricane -- this falling between 7:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday.


Civil Defense hurricane warnings closely followed warnings received by the Coast Guard. Chief Christoph said he received the first alert, "Hurricane Condition 3", at 9:30 p.m. Sunday at the Coast Guard Station. From that time on, a Coast Guard crew worked round the clock to notify boat owners, harbor masters, local police and all other parties concerned of the threat to the area.

At 11 p.m. Sunday the Hurricane Condition 2" was received. indicating the storm was due to strike within 24 hours. At 3 a.m. Monday "Hurricane Condition 1" came in to warn that the storm could be expected within 12 hours.

At 7 a.m. Monday the three alerts had been received by Director Hunter of the Hampton Civil Defense and he called a meeting of CD officials to make preparation for emergency.

Dep. Director Carl M. Lougee, in charge of transportation, reported that Philip Toppan provided station wagons as evacuation of the beach began at 2 p.m. At first, beach residents were asked to leave a porch light burning or a towel tied to stair railings if they desired to leave the beach. At 4 p.m., however, Hunter rode with Officer John Woodburn in Police Car 2 and announced over a loud speaking system that all residents must leave the beach. The sound system was loaned by John Holman of Hampton.

Some evacuees, mostly year round residents, reported to the fire station, while many others were taken to the Marston school. At the fire station, Mrs. Perley George was in charge, while her husband, the fire chief, baked donuts for hours. At the Marston school, Mrs. Hazel Coffin and Mrs. Lena Emery were in charge, while several other volunteers served one full meal to 200 people in addition to coffee and donuts. Roy Gillmore established Red Cross head quarters at the Marston school as well. Other volunteers kept the police station, Coast Guard station and National Guard outposts supplied with hot coffee.

Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Hackett and Mrs. Marion Scannell were in charge of Civil Defense communications at the town office from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The National Guard under Major General Francis McSweeney was ordered to Portsmouth from Concord early in the afternoon. From Portsmouth, seven 2½-ton trucks, two jeeps and two ducks were brought to Hampton Beach with a contingent of about 30 men. The National Guard was assigned guard duty at Black Water Road, Seabrook Beach, and the Coast Guard station, Hampton Beach, after State Highway Commissioner John O. Morton ordered the section of Route 1-A between these points closed to general traffic. Morton visited the beach in the early evening and ordered state road equipment to stand by in case any roads would have to be cleared to keep the beach open.

When the beach was again opened after 9 p.m. and residents returned from the evacuation centers, National Guardsmen patrolled the streets through the night to guard against looting and to relieve Hampton policemen who had been on duty for as long as 18 hours without a break. The National Guard was finally released by Police Chief John A. Roden at 4:30 a.m.


State Police, under Sgt. John Marchand, also aided local police with emergency operations. Both Hunter and Roden expressed gratitude to the state police for lending the use of two portable radio units needed by local police when power was lost at the beach station. Auxiliary power units kept the fire station and Marston school supplied with electricity.

Hunter praised his CD workers and the other agencies for their cooperation and obedience to CD directives. He also commended municipal public works crews, who worked straight through the night on cleanup operations.

Trees and debris were cleared promptly from highways and the state worked most of the day Tuesday to remove sand from the boulevard. Sand had drifted to six inches deep on the boulevard opposite each of the side streets.

Lobstermen were still busy Wednesday collecting traps that had been washed ashore, and the Coast Guard was out in its skiff searching for several small craft still missing, presumed to be washed into the marshes. A number of boats were rescued at Rye Harbor after their moorings gave way. At least one boat went under and several others were pumped out Tuesday by Coast Guardsmen at Rye.


Malcolm McLean of Hampton, Sales manager at Exeter and Hampton Electric company, Tuesday night issued the following report of the storm and post-storm work:

"Advance preparations minimized a great deal of the outage. These included such things as all employees getting up early on Monday and battening down their homes so that they could concentrate on the customers when the storm struck; all trucks being inspected and loaded with supplies; food arrangements for feeding the crews through the night; tree crews were called in; and finally spotting the line crews in strategic locations. Seaver L. MacDonald, the distribution superintendent, did the planning and supervising during the storm.

"All outages were caused by tree limbs, or high winds slapping the wires together thereby burning out fuses or opening switches.

"With 367 miles of line to take care of and patrol we picked up local help but were unable to call for crews from surrounding companies. Tired, wet and hungry line crews who had been working steadily on an emergency basis for 18 hours were rested from 2 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., Tuesday, even though we realized that some customers would be without service the rest of the night.

"As the storm built up, the first trouble started in the towns along the Massachusetts border. After several small problems, a big maple tree on Highland avenue, Newton, shut off the power to Lower Main street, Newton Junction road South Kingston, and East Kingston road. This was reported about 3 p.m. and was repaired by 5:30 p.m.

"Wires down affected North Maple avenue, Academy avenue, and Woodlawn avenue, Atkinson. This was reported about 6 p.m. and fixed about 10 p.m. An unexplained outage on Stage road, Atkinson, about 6 p.m. and was also fixed about 10 p.m.

"In Plaistow limbs on North avenue and also on Elm street caused trouble at 5:30 p.m. and was fixed by 9 p.m. Late evening calls on Sweet Hill road and Crane Crossing were fixed about 11:30 p.m.

"A tree down south of Kingston affected South Hampton. This was cleared by 6:25 p.m.

"From 3:30 p.m. on the trouble multiplied faster than the crews could solve them and damage happened so fast that it is not possible to give a coherent description.

"At 4:20 p.m. industrial plants were notified the company could no longer promise to keep them supplied with current.

"At 4 p.m. from Church street, Hampton Beach, up to Smith's Grove was all out.

"At 6:02 p.m. a big tree on Lafayette road, Hampton, north of the railroad overpass, killed the circuits to Hampton proper. At 6:45 p.m. Hampton center was put back in service and by 8 p.m. Hampton and Exeter industry was notified they could plan operations on Tuesday. At 5:40 p.m. a tree on Exeter road, Hampton, plus limbs resting on the wires kept the lights out west of the town. At 11:29 the major portion of Hampton were back on and holding.

"At 6:55 p.m. the crews in Stratham and Hampton reported the winds too strong for working.

"From 4 p.m. on into the evening Seabrook suffered damage and a big break was suffered at 7:15 p.m. on Lafayette road in Hampton Falls. This was cleared by 8:45 p.m.

"Limbs on wires on Crane Crossing road, Plaistow, caused outages about 11 p.m. and were fixed Tuesday.

"A tree broke a pole on North Main street, Danville, and was fixed by 8 p.m.

"A tree down in Kingston plus limbs on the wires on Main street caused trouble during the evening and finally at 2 a.m. we had to rest the crews until 5:30 a.m. before starting even though we realized service was out."

Telephone service was likewise disrupted and the service crews were kept busy repairing line and pole damage. Extensive repairs were necessary in some areas but service was restored to normal by Wednesday.

Edward J. Murphy, manager of the local office of New England Telephone and Telegraph office, reported a total of 1605 phones out-of-order during the storm. His crews restored service to 924 customers in Portsmouth and Kittery; Epping, 83; Exeter, 184; Hampton, 78; Kingston, 99; Newmarket, 152; and Rye, 85.

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