By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, July 14, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
That is how long safety officials had Tuesday afternoon to evacuate roughly 2,000 beach goers at Hampton Beach after hearing word that severe thunderstorms with golf size hailstones were about to strike Rockingham County.
And while the storm passed through quickly and didn't bring the amount of damage to Hampton as it did to other towns, it did provide for a few tense moments.
Hampton Fire Capt. Dave Lang said they were conducting a joint training session with the state lifeguards at the beach when they first got wind of the storm that could possible spawn a tornado.
"We immediately went into action to clear the beach," Lang said.
Lang said because officials had no time to sound an alarm, they quickly notified lifeguards and police officers to aid in evacuating the beach.
Beach goers sought shelter in the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom and in the town's beach fire station.
"We were lucky that it wasn't that bad," Lang said.
Exeter was one of the hardest hit communities. Employees at Foss Motors watched hail pummel 200 cars on their lot, and the roof at a Walgreen's store in Exeter collapsed from heavy rain.
Golf ball-sized hailstones did bust the windshield of a Hampton ambulance that was returning from Exeter Hospital, Lang said.
Lang said the Hampton Fire Department responded to roughly 30 calls from noon to 3 p.m., which ranged from lightening strikes to flooding problems.
"Our crews were taxed but they did a remarkable job," Lang said.
Lang said they responded to several properties that were damaged by lightening and high wind.
The department also checked the Taylor River dam and culverts, to ensure that what happened during the Mother's Day storm didn't happen again. Taylor River Estates was one of the hardest hit areas during the Mother's Day storm after water from the Taylor River overflowed into 10 homes on the street.
Lang said the department also responded to Drakeside Road, another problem area for flooding during storms, for a car that was stalled in the middle of the flooded road.
Hampton Falls, which was struck by a tornado in May, "fared pretty well," police dispatcher Sherry Allen said. "It was more north of us."
North Hampton got a "little" hail and lightning, according to the Fire Department.
Hampton Ford President Sue McFarland said about 90 percent of its cars sustained damage to glass, roofs and hood panels.
"This was pretty severe hail," McFarland said.