Riding Out the Storm: Weather System Leads to Power Outages, Road Closings in Valley
Matt Herbert of the Norwich Fire Department directs traffic around a fallen tree and a downed power line on Turnpike Road in Norwich yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
A tree is down after heavy rain in the cemetery on Hanover Center Road in Etna yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Plainfield — A series of powerful thunderstorms crackled across the Upper Valley yesterday, bringing downed power lines and forcing road closings in what amounted to some of the storm system’s worst damage in northern New England.
Plainfield Fire Chief Frank Currier said his department had seen “all kinds of mayhem” in the aftermath of yesterday’s storm, but no one was seriously hurt.
Currier said that lightning struck an electrical transformer near Center of Town Road, and that the strike did “very minimal damage to one house but pretty well wiped out the electrical wiring in the second house.
“It blew the electrical receptacles right out of the wall,” said Currier, who added that his department received about nine calls yesterday. The lightning strike near Center of Town Road forced the closure of Route 12A traffic in both directions for about four hours.
In Canaan, a man and a woman in their 20s were injured in a lightning strike while getting back into their car at the town boat launch on Goose Pond, according to ambulance squad member Alan Ricard, who declined to release the names of the victims.
Ricard said that the ambulance squad picked the two victims up at a private residence.
“I think it probably hit the car directly and they were in the process of getting into it,” said Ricard. “So they had some tingling and numbness in their extremities.”
Ricard said he did not know how the two victims of the lightning strike were transported from the boat launch to the private residence.
As the storms moved into western Maine, the National Weather Service issued a rare New England tornado warning and winds gusted up to 70 miles per hour. The weather service also reported hail in Vermont and northern Maine.
The storms felt in New England yesterday were remnants of the same system that killed 13 people in Oklahoma Friday, including three veteran storm chasers.
Just north of the Wilder Dam on Route 10, police were diverting traffic in both directions from the major artery connecting Lebanon and Hanover for more than four hours until the road was finally cleared around 8 p.m.
Lebanon Police Corp. Jeffrey Perkins said earlier in the day that his department was dealing with several downed power lines across the city from the storm’s high winds, and reported that police were having a hard time coordinating with the utility crews to get appropriate manpower to the scene of the Route 10 closure.
“The Route 10 situation is a tree blocking the road that is on top of the power lines,” Perkins said before deadpanning. “It’s a little bit of everything.”
Despite the soggy ground, Perkins said that there were some scattered fires due to live power lines. Scanner chatter yesterday indicated that departments in other communities were dealing with similar small fires.
Route 5 was closed in Norwich for several hours yesterday as well, and it was the road had not been reopened as of 11 p.m. yesterday.
About 45 minutes after the height of the storm at around 4:15 p.m., the commotion began to quiet, but several Upper Valley communities were still without power.
Libery Utilities reported more than 1,000 Lebanon residents without power shortly after 4 p.m., but only 66 Hanover residents had lost their power at that time.
In the Mascoma River Valley, 862 Enfield residents lost their power along with 175 Canaan residents. More than 300 lost power in Claremont, and 388 lost electricity in Grafton.
By 7:30 p.m. yesterday, most of the outages began to tick down on the New Hampshire side of the Valley, but the recovery was dragging on slowly in Vermont.
On the Green Mountain side of the Valley, Norwich, Royalton and Woodstock were hit the hardest. More than 1,650 lost their power in Royalton, and 880 lost power in Woodstock. In Norwich, more about 400 were still without power as late as 11 p.m.
Hanover Fire Captain Bert Hennessy said that his department had been lucky with a lack of major fires or accidents.
“Right now what we’ve been dealing with is mainly downed trees and power lines,” he said. “That’s what’s been keeping us busy.”
Hennessy estimated that at least six power lines had been knocked down in Hanover yesterday.
“We’re just waiting to see if another batch of storms come through,” said Hennessy around 6 p.m. yesterday evening. “So right now we’re kind of sitting and waiting.”
Ben Conarck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3213. The Associated Press contributed to this report.