National Guard called: Hampton Beach in State of Emergency

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By Ann Howe, Staff Writer

The Portsmouth Herald, Tuesday, February 7, 1978

[The following article is courtesy of the The Portsmouth Herald and Seacoast Online.]

See a photo gallery of the storm


Gov. Meldrim A. Thomson Jr. declared New Hampshire in a state of emergency early this afternoon, and the President has been so informed. The governor was due at the National Guard Armory here this afternoon to confer with Seacoast officials.

HAMPTON BEACH -- A state of emergency, complete with National Guard vehicles, was ordered for Hampton Beach as a blinding snowstorm and pounding surf continued to batter this Seacoast community for the second day.

The National Guard vehicles were ordered in today after it became impossible for local emergency forces to evacuate some of the residents of the North Beach area.

Gov. Meldrim Thomson Jr., and Highway Commissioner John Clements, and DRED Commissioner George Gilman were to inspect the area later today.

The snowstorm scenario began late Monday night when Town officials called for a voluntary evacuation of the Beach.

Director of Public Works George Hardardt reported to the Selectmen Monday at 8:35 p.m. that the Beach was being belted by 70 to 80-mile-an-hour winds. Visibility was zero, said Hardardt, as the winds blew the snow to high drifts. A snow emergency had been called and cars were being towed off the road.

Those residents of the Beach area who couldn't make it to the evacuation center at the uptown Junior High, were taken by way of school buses, police cruisers and in some cases, even fire trucks.

Richard Annis, principal of the Junior High, estimated there were about 40 people at the evacuation center at about 2 a.m. Annis said arrangements for food were made through the Exeter Red Cross.

He praised the efforts of James Royal, operator of the S and R Food Center in Hampton. Royal left his home in Rye in the wee hours of the morning and went with Annis to the grocery store to pick up food for the evacuees.

The small group of men, women, children and dogs, made themselves comfortable in the school cafeteria or took a nap on gym mats that served as cots.

Not all the people at the school were evacuated from the Beach.

Some never made it home. Several people were on their way home to the Beach around midnight when they were stopped by police and were advised to go to the Junior High because the Beach was closed off.

Hugh Traulsen, of the Kings Highway Apartments, said when the water reached about four inches in his first-floor apartment he decided it was time for his wife and two daughters to leave.

Traulsen said he took a couple of neighbors along with his family but on the way to the school, his four-wheel drive vehicle stalled because of the rising water and blinding snow. The second time the jeep stalled, Traulsen said he found himself in a snow drift. The vehicle was abandoned when someone stopped to pick them up.

Downed wires and a power-outage on the Beach also caused some people to leave. Today all Hampton Fire Department personnel were called back to the station at 9:25 a.m., per order of Fire Chief Howard Stickney.

Last night firefighters were sent out in the blinding snow after the department received a call to a furnace fire on Thornton Road. No one was injured.

The rising water this morning continued to cause increased flooding problems as a late morning high tide drew closer.

Throughout the morning reports came in over the police scanner of people trapped in their homes on the boulevard. Plaice Cove residents on the Ocean side of Ancient Highway had to be evacuated by boat.

A fire truck sent to the area of North Beach to evacuate some trapped people stalled as the driver reported that the waves were going over the vehicle.

The Police Dept. received frantic calls from residents who reported that the waves were as high as the windows in their houses. One woman and her five-year-old son were trapped in their pickup truck when it stalled on a flooded street. Emergency vehicles found it difficult to reach persons trapped in areas where the flooding was anywhere from two to four feet.

Michael Cowan, of the State Civil Defense, reported that a popped plate of the sea wall had blown off, although this wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

He added that the National Weather Service had issued a dangerous flood warning for low lying areas. Cowans said the service noted that there was a "potential to produce an all-time high tide."

The service also recommended an evacuation of low lying areas and warned of structural damage to seaside buildings from the pounding surf.

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