Atlantic Hurricane of 1944

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Hurricane Last Week Damaged Many Fruit Trees in this Section

Beach Residents Left Home Thursday Afternoon and Evening for Up-Town Locations Until After Storm Subsided

Hampton Union, Thursday, September 21, 1944

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union]

The hurricane which was scheduled to pass over this section Thursday afternoon with great severity and resultant property damage and probable loss of life, and of which warnings had been broadcasted over the radio and by newspapers, did less damage than was expected. This was due in the main part, by the air pressure from the north diverting the course of the expected hurricane easterly, so that the full force of it was not felt. Another factor was that the high wind preceding the hurricane, came after the tide had started to go out, and which had the reverse been the case, would have likely overrun Hampton Beach, with water in some sections. The excellent preparations to preclude disaster, taken by town and state authorities as well as by the Red Cross, made early Thursday, aided in the comfort and welfare of those whom it was expected would need help.

Chief of Police Jerome Harkness, who is also Chief of Civilian Defense, had the Hampton Civilian Defense personnel of 150 mobilized, ready for action early. Mrs. Charlotte Batchelder, chairman of the Hampton Red Cross, notified Chief Harkness that her units were ready, at 3 o'clock Thursday afternoon. Gov. Robert O. Blood who was greatly concerned about the hurricane and its effect on Hampton Beach and those who reside there, was in touch with Chief Harkness all through the night Thursday, by telephone, and Supt. of State Police Ralph Caswell of Concord, N.H. notified Chief Harkness that he had mobilized the State Police emergency, and held them in readiness. Chief George H. Lamott of the Fire Department was on active duty all through the night and did much in warning and aiding to evacuate those at Hampton Beach, when Gov. Blood broadcast over radio station WEEI, that the beach should be evacuated. "Pat" Spear of North Hampton who is in charge of the state highways in this section was patrolling roads all night, and on the alert for disaster. Mr. Ramsdell of Portsmouth in charge of Boston and Maine bus lines was contacted by Chief Harkness, for transportation from the beach, as it was expected that when the hurricane struck there would be disaster to homes and suffering from exposure. Mr. Ramsdell sent a bus, and told Chief Harkness to keep it there all night in case of any emergency.

The excellent preparations were completed early and property and home owners after securing their properties, literally "buttoned down the hatches" and waited. Coast Guard men who were busy patrolling and aiding those along the shore and at the Mile Long bridge were active, with some of the members of Hampton's Flotilla called into active duty, assisting in patrolling and notifying residents all along the area. Exeter Red Cross sent down two mobile units, when asked for aid by Chief Harkness, which helped to take residents of the area along the coastline to places of safety. Many voluntarily left their homes at Hampton Beach, and spent the night at Whittiers Hotel and in various "guest" houses in Hampton. There were 200 spending the night at Hampton Academy and High school, which was opened by School Committeeman Dean B. Merrill, where the Hampton Red Cross served hot coffee and doughnuts and otherwise provided for their comfort. Firemen of the Hampton Fire department were called on duty to an all night session and actively engaged in aiding residents and providing for their safety. The New Hampshire State Guard were in readiness but due to the lessened severity Of the hurricane and the excellent preparations made here, they were not called. Many with large store windows had boarded them up against breakage and only one was broken, this being in the First National Store on Ocean Boulevard. Electricity and telephone connections were disrupted and after a period of flickering, the electric lights went out about 1:30 Friday morning, and in some places were not on until Saturday. Several large limbs, from big trees along the Winnacunnet Road, were torn down by the high winds, and many trees in orchards in Hampton, Hampton Falls, and surrounding towns were destroyed, with unpicked apples falling. At the home of Selectman Elroy G. Shaw on the Lafayette Road, there were twelve Baldwin apple trees a pear tree and a crabapple tree felled by the hurricane, with resultant loss. At the home of James H. Thurlow in Hampton Falls, several peach trees were damaged and fruit lost due to the hurricane, and at the Applecrest Farm in Hampton Falls, there was a considerable loss in the orchards. The century old elms at Elmwood corner withstood the force of the hurricane, though there were some big limbs down. The electricity at the Fire station at Hampton Beach being disrupted, the alarm boxes were kept working by auxiliary motors for the generators until Saturday afternoon. Electric power was resumed on the Lafayette Road Friday forenoon with the linemen working steadily and on the Drakeside Road, the electric current was restored Friday afternoon just as they were getting to milk at the farm of Clarence Walker. The remainder of the town had the electric power turned on at various times, with a full force of linemen, already depleted by manpower in the war effort, connecting lines as fast as possible. Some of the telephones in Hampton, North Hampton and at Hampton Falls, were not in order until Monday, but most telephones were usable after the storm.

Here again the linemen were busy repairing and also short of manpower, were handicapped to an extent. Great credit is due, all for their excellent preparedness and their efforts to repair damage done. Considerable water damage was done to homes at Hampton Beach, flooding cellars where homes were situated in low areas, but firemen were not called upon, to pump out these cellars as there was no emergency. The water in cellars was due to the heavy rain beating in, which also leaked through some roofs. Some roofs in various sections of the beach had holes torn in the roofs by flying debris caused by the hurricane but these are steadily being repaired. At about 4:30 a.m. Friday the hurricane blew at what is judged its greatest velocity and many home owners shuddered at what to expect next. Many kept vigil in their homes, ready for emergencies. As far as known at present there were no live stock damaged though they showed restlessness Thursday afternoon. Trees swayed and bent to the ground in the force of the hurricane, but only the larger, older trees were broken. The daily papers from Boston did not arrive as usual, due to difficulties all along the hurricane path, but Hampton residents and those residing at Hampton Beach, should feel very, very grateful for the minor damage, and the excellent preparations made for emergencies for their benefit and comfort.

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