Snow No Treat: Utilities still working to restore power in Hampton area

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, November 1, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
An October storm Saturday night dropped wet and heavy snow in Hampton and all Seacoast area towns leaving many people without power on Monday. A sidewalk plow cleans up walkways in Hampton near Marston School. [Deb Cram, Photo]

HAMPTON — Roughly 800 Hampton residents were still in the dark Monday afternoon in the aftermath of Saturday's snow storm, a "Snowtober" blast that left thousands or residents and businesses on the Seacoast without power.

Unitil spokesman Alec O'Meara said the majority of its customers will have service returned by Tuesday evening. Some individual service issues, as well as isolated pockets of customer outages, he said, may last into Wednesday.

Locally, 812 people in Hampton remained without electricity at noon Monday, as well as 1,433 in North Hampton, 176 in Hampton Falls and 160 in Seabrook.

Unitil reported Monday morning that an estimated 34,908 of the utility's 103,000 electric customers system-wide were reporting no power, down from an overnight peak of 70,000.

Hampton Police Chief Jamie Sullivan said at the peak of the outage 7,900 out of 10,900 customers in Hampton were without power.

O'Meara said they have approximately 300 crews, some from as far away as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Canada, participating in the restoration effort for the areas hit hardest by the storm.

Officials called it the third-largest outage in history behind 2008's ice storm and 2010's wind storm.

Seabrook Middle School and Seabrook Elementary School were the only schools within SAU 21 that called off school for Monday.

Seabrook school officials said the decision to call off school was made because power was not restored in time.

On Monday, he said there were crews working on the North Shore area of town, where power still had not been restored in town.

Sullivan said Unitil has been keeping them updated on the progress and they are working hard to restore power as quick as possible.

He said there were roughly 60 crews working on the Seacoast Monday.

"It just takes time when there is damage like this to restore," said Sullivan.

O'Meara the company aims to restore power first to all life support and critical care facilities and then target areas that affect large blocks of customers.

During the peak of storm, police and fire responded to numerous calls of downed trees, wires and several minor motor vehicle accidents where cars slid off the road.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Legro confirmed the storm broke records, and not just for the month of October. Concord's 22.2 inches of snowfall marked the third-highest total for that city for a single winter storm, he said.

"That's low compared to some of the totals coming out of western Mass.," he said.

The weather service reported 3.3 inches of snow in Hampton. The storm also broke records in Portland, where the 5.2 inches of snow broke the previous October single-storm record of 3.6 inches, Legro said.

"They also broke the monthly snowfall record there," he said.

As residents got out their generators and shovels a little earlier than desired, Legro said everyone will try to figure out what this storm means for the season ahead.

"You can't really extrapolate that for the rest of the winter," he said. "We're going to get our snow either way."

Joey Cresta contributed to this report.

A Hampton Public Works employee picks up large amounts of limbs which came down on High Street in Hampton following a bad snow storm Saturday night. Many Seacoast area businesses and residents still had no power Monday. [Deb Cram, Photo]
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