Damages at Hampton May go as High as $2M

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By Ann Howe, Staff Writer

Portsmouth Herald, Friday, February 8, 1978

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

See a photo gallery of the storm

HAMPTON BEACH -- Mother Nature's winter wallop has caused an estimated two million dollars damage and left many people totally homeless.

The two-day storm packed with high tides and gale force winds caused four-to-six-foot high flooding in some areas from Plaice Cove to Boar's head.

The pounding surf lifted cars from the pavement and piled them atop each other. The fast-moving tide swept over the seawall and flooded areas as far inland as High Street, and Mill Pond Lane.

Residents who evacuated to the refugee center at the uptown Junior High reported neighbor's homes being swept away, being evacuated by boats when some areas became impassable and waters rising to the height of the ceiling in their basements.

The only injuries reported during the two-day battle with Mother Nature came Tuesday afternoon when a Hampton ambulance collided with a two and a half ton Army vehicle on Landing Road. Two Hampton firefighters were taken to Exeter Hospital but are home now.

Robert V. Lessard, chairman of the selectmen, said he had never seen such damage on Hampton Beach. He particularly pointed to a section of the steel seawall along Ocean Blvd., at North Beach where steel girders were torn into the air by a brutal surf.

Huge boulders could be found along King's Highway. The boulders were brought across the seawall and dumped along the street by the waves. Homes along Boar's Head also suffered damage particularly one place where a rock flew into the living room.

Lessard hoped that federal funds could be available to help some of the people relocate. The governor called a state of emergency and asked President Jimmy Carter to declare the area a disaster.

Many businessmen along the north shore area of the boulevard were wiped out in some cases. Meneas "Mike" Danelian operator of Captain D's, said all his equipment was lost and at the height of the storm he had several feet of water in his restaurant.

Flood reports varied from four to six feet. It is still nearly impossible to get to Plaice Cove because of the high water.

At least one cottage was literally picked up from its foundations and swept inland. Late Tuesday evening police reported that there was a home off its foundation and someone in it.

Many people refused to leave their homes and their animals. Emergency evacuation vehicles weren't taking pets according to reports.

According to police about 250 to 300 people were evacuated and most sought shelter at the junior high. Some reports put the figure at a thousand.

The National Guard is still on duty at the Beach and is trying to keep sightseers and looters away from the area.

Local police reported that there was only one break-in Tuesday night. In Rye there was some looting.

The Hampton Junior High had its share of problems with its "guests." A kennel had to be provided for the many cats and dogs that the evacuees brought with them or asked National Guardsmen to go back in the flooded area and get.

Although about 40 local homes opened their doors to the stranded victims, most chose to stay at the junior high. Many with infants did choose to accept the invitation on behalf of their children. As one volunteer put it, "They are exhausted and tired and very upset. They don't want to move again."

The school expected to feed the people at least lunch and wasn't sure about anything further.

Where these people will go and how they will manage is another story. Many are elderly and young families with little money and some with no insurance at all.

State officials were slated to meet at Rye Wednesday morning to discuss the possibility of federal loans to get businessmen and families back on their feet.

Hampton wasn't the only Seacoast community that was hit hard by the storm.

Andrew Swanson of Exeter was driving down Rt. 286 Monday at 10:30 p.m. in Seabrook in his sub-compact car when a wave soared over him and swept Swanson and vehicle into the water.

Swanson reported the car landed on an ice floe. He got out of the vehicle and got to safety but the car hasn't been seen since.

About 15 persons were evacuated to the Seabrook elementary school but others went home with family or friends.

One Seabrook Beach family was sitting at home during the storm when a chunk of ice came flying through their picture window.

Brown's Lobster Pound suffered severe damage and much of the refrigeration equipment was destroyed, according to reports.

Electricity along the Seacoast has been restored but according to Edward Kochy of the utility company: "I've never seen anything like this before."

Kochy said crews were forced off the Beach by the rising tide and in some cases got stuck.

Carpenters, plumbers and electricians were given access to Hampton Beach to help restore the area.

It was hoped earlier Wednesday morning that residents would be allowed back on the Beach but a fast-rising tide bringing more flooding dashed those hopes.

National Guardsmen will "play it by ear" as to when people can return home.

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