Ole fashioned Winter in N.H.

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And it didn't start 'til Dec. 21

By Susan Morse

Hampton Union, Tuesday, December 23, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Wind blown, Linda Callagy of Hampton looks out at the ocean from North Beach in Hampton

Still recovering from an ice storm that left thousands upon thousands without power, area residents spent Monday morning digging out from two snowstorms that dumped a total of 21 inches of snow across the Seacoast.

Hampton officials reported no major accidents over the weekend due to the storm, but there were still 21 homes in town without power from the Dec. 11 ice storm.

Stephanye Schuyler of Unitil said Monday her company has "substantially completed" all restorations caused by the ice storm. Unitil's crews were still working on individual service issues and a few scattered outages due to the weekend's snowstorm on the Seacoast.

Hampton Police Chief Jamie Sullivan said there were four Unitil trucks in town working to restore power to the 21 homes still in the dark.

"The goal would be to have everyone restored today," Sullivan said. "But the hook-up date has been moving on. Initially, we were told everything would be restored by Wednesday, but that date keeps being pushed forward.

"What we are being told is that some of these individual hook-ups can take a significant amount of time based on the damage."

Sullivan said communication between the town and Unitil has improved the last few days. Town officials and numerous residents blasted Unitil and other utility officials last week for not keeping them informed.

"The communications with the utilities absolutely needs to be improved," Sullivan said. "But, we are still focusing on the people still without power. Those issues are best to be reviewed when the job is done."

The state Public Utilities Commission and the state Legislature have already announced they plan separate, formal reviews of complaints about how utilities communicated with customers and officials during the long outages across the state.

Sullivan said anyone still powerless should contact their respective police or fire departments. The Hampton Police Department, he said, has been communicating with the company twice a day to get updates for residents.

While there were no major accidents in town due to the two weekend snowstorms, police are urging residents to use caution on the roads.

"We would ask folks to really use caution going through intersections and entering roadways because of the high snow banks," Sullivan said. "The snowbanks are extremely high and visibility is reduced."

Local schools were spared another snow day as SAU 21 saw a two-hour delay on Monday, Dec. 22 instead of a full closing. The Weather Channel, as of Monday afternoon, was forecasting a warming trend with a chance of light rain on Christmas eve a showers on Saturday, Dec. 27.

The two storms pounded the region as several hundred Seacoast residents were still without power. Unitil crews worked throughout the storms to restore power.

Seabrook officials said they knew of no homes in town still without power. Seabrook also has Unitil as its electrical provider.

On Friday night, the shelter at the Seabrook Community Center officially closed, as it was no longer needed.

A "significant amount" of residents were without power for a week," said Seabrook Fire Deputy Everett Strangman. Quite a few people, he said, took advantage of the town's community center for shelter.

Sunday's snowstorm brought few incidents, as people appeared to stay home, he said.

"There were no accidents," Strangman said. "People might have been smart when it started snowing in a near blizzard and stayed home."

In Hampton Falls, the town was "down to about 10 people with individual problems overall," said Fire Chief Jay Lord.

Three houses had trees through the roof, one house had the gable end torn off, Lord said.

As in the case of Seabrook, there wasn't a single motor vehicle accident during Sunday's snowstorm.

Kaylene Graham of Hampton Falls and other residents on Crank Road, Goodwin Road and Coach Lane were among the last residents to get power back in their town. Graham said a Unitil truck showed up at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20 and restored power to her home after nine frustrating days.

"The line men did an excellent job working in snowy and cold conditions," said Graham. "I don't blame them because they were just going where they were told to go. But, I'm not impressed by the public relations of Unitil or their management with how they handled everything."

Graham said she was furious when Unitil reported that Hampton Falls was completely restored when in fact there were several streets still in the dark.

"Unitil still managed to get their latest bills to all of us," Graham said.

North Hampton firefighters were clearing hydrants to get ready for snow potentially melting on Wednesday if it rains.

Firefighters responded to a small electrical fire on Atlantic Avenue on Monday, Dec. 22, which was unrelated to the snowstorm, said Deputy Chief Dennis Cote.

As far as he knew, Cote said, all homes had power restored. North Hampton has Public Service of New Hampshire as its electrical company.

John Eaton Sr., a Lee resident who had been at it for five hours already, shovels the walkway of an attorney's office on Lafayette Road near the intersection of High Street in Hampton on Saturday.
[Scott Yates Photo]
Happy Clam employee Armand Foisy, of Hampton, shovels out in front of the Hampton Beach establishment on Sunday.
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