More fun than fear at Hampton Beach during Tropical Storm Irene

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Police do their best to keep public off sea wall

By Howard Altschiller

Hampton Union, August 30, 2011

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

HAMPTON — Police had their hands full Sunday when the tide reached its high point shortly after 11 a.m. and waves crashed over the sea wall along Ocean Boulevard, drenching those who came to see Tropical Storm Irene.

"We don't want to see somebody get hit by a wave and get washed out to sea," said Hampton Lt. Tom Gudaitis. "It can happen in seconds."

Irene watchers also might not know, Gudaitis said, that the churning waves pick up large rocks and debris and can hurl them over the sea wall.

"Someone could get hit by a rock," Gudaitis said.

Despite police efforts to keep people away from the sea wall, a desire to have fun overwhelmed beachgoers' sense of fear.

Joe Valliere of Kingston came to the beach with his daughter Brooke. "I come for all the storms," he said. "I swam in this in 1991 (during Hurricane Bob). They don't let people do that stuff now."

Gov. John Lynch's decision to close state parks allowed lifeguards and other state officials to keep everyone out of the water, Gudaitis explained.

Cinnamon Rainbows surf shop was shuttered up tight. Casey Hingtgen of San Diego, Calif., and Nick Binder of Boston said they had tried surfing earlier in the day in Ogunquit, Maine, but the waves "were pretty blown out — too strong to ride," Binder said.

Standing on the deck of the North Beach Bar and Grill, lifelong Hampton resident Dan Kertanis called Irene "a curious storm."

"I've seen most of them: the Blizzard of '78, Hurricane Gloria, Hurricane Bob," Kertanis said. "This one really isn't so bad."

For Bar and Grill owner Dan Favreau, Tropical Storm Irene blew in a fresh batch of customers who mixed with the locals over breakfast, lunch and a Hurricane Party from 3 to 6 p.m.

"We took off all the deck furniture," Favreau said. "Now I just hope the awning holds up."

Michelle Bourbeau has lived in Hampton for more than 30 years and still loves storms.

"You can't see this anywhere else," Bourbeau said. "You have to come and look at the ocean and see how it boils. All of the people who live here go out in all this weather. We're a little crazy around here. If you live here year round, you have to like bad weather."

Gudaitis expected Hampton Beach would weather the storm without any major incidents. Astronomical high tide was not expected until 11:25 p.m., after the brunt of the storm had left the region.

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