National Guard Called to Beach

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 17, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
A man moves debris off Winnacunnet Road in Hampton as water rushes
through during Monday's nor'easter.

[Deb Cram photo / SMG]

HAMPTON -- Thirty national guardsmen were called to Hampton Beach yesterday afternoon in the aftermath of surging high tides causing major coastal flooding of homes and businesses.

Fire Chief Hank Lipe said the guardsman were called in to aid safety personnel as they geared up for another high tide last night at 11:16 p.m.

"I have never seen anything like this," Lipe said. "A lot of people are saying that this has been the worst storm here since the Blizzard of '78."

Gov. John Lynch, who declared a state of emergency, viewed the damage in Hampton Monday afternoon from the first high tide.

"Hampton, I think, is one of the hardest hit places in the state," Lynch said. "The flooding has been really extensive."

Lipe said while there were no injuries, there was significant property damage.

At high tide, waves crashed over the sea wall, flinging foam and football-sized rocks onto the street.

An estimated 12 residents were evacuated from their beach homes and put into the town's emergency shelter at Winnacunnet High School. The town's Recreation and Parks Department bus was used to evacuate beach residents needing to get out of their homes.

Firefighters also had to rescue several residents after their cars got stuck in the water near Sun Valley.

A police cruiser got stuck in the water and at one point a fire engine began to float but was able to get back on dry land.

Numerous homes and businesses were flooded with some reporting up to five feet of water gushing into their front doors.

The beach fire station was closed early Monday morning and will remain closed at least into today due to flooding.

Robert Paquett was outside with a rake trying to keep one of the storm drains from getting clogged with debris on Ocean Boulevard.

"If I don't do this, this water is going right to my house," Paquett said.

Selectman Rick Griffin said his salon at Hampton Beach was flooded with up to eight inches of water, mostly from the marsh.

"It went right through," Griffin said. "We got it out, but this hasn't happened since the Blizzard of '78. We are just hoping it doesn't affect the furniture."

The wind also caused shingles from the peak of the roof to blow off. And high winds also ripped off the boards covering windows of an oceanfront convenience store, A-Z Beach Mart at the Moultan Hotel, blowing out the windows and scattering merchandise in the street.

Deputy Fire Chief Steven Benotti said the fire department responded to numerous calls from wires down to basements flooding. The department was also called to shut down utilities.

Hampton police officers closed off Ocean Boulevard from 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. yesterday.

Numerous residents came to the beach to catch a glimpse of the waves.

"We went to look, but the wind was so strong that you couldn't walk... The wind just turned you back," said Linda Pepin of Bristol, Conn., who owns a second-floor condominium less than 50 feet from the shore.

Others were in awe by the amount of flooding and damage that occurred.

Gabriello Gabrielli said he hasn't seen this much flooding since the Blizzard of 1978.

"That was much worse," Gabrielli said. "But this is pretty bad."

Ninety minutes after high tide, waves continued to push water across Ocean Boulevard, turning the marsh west of the beach into a flooded bowl.

The high marsh water receded somewhat by 1:30 p.m. as the Department of Transportation used large snowplows to clear the rocks from the road.

"There is just debris everywhere," Seacoast Parks Supervisor Brian Warburton said. "It's a mess. It's just unbelievable. This is one of the worst storms as far as beach erosion and rocks, wood and other debris on the streets."

The fire and police departments spent yesterday afternoon going door to door to assess the damage.

"We are also going on a door-to-door campaign asking residents to voluntarily evacuate before the next high tide," Benotti said. "And if they don't want to go anywhere, we are offering assistance to get them better prepared."

The state Department of Transportation provided the town with an additional 50,000 sandbags. The town's DPW had 500 sandbags on hand but those were all used during the first high tide.

The strongest part of the storm ended yesterday afternoon, but more rain and snow showers were expected Tuesday and Wednesday.

[— The Associated Press contributed to this report.]

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