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Storm Leads to Power Outages, Flooding in Canaan and Beyond

  • Jimmy Rossi, the owner of Canaan Village Pizza, watches through a window as Joesph Poitras, of Canaan, N.H., moves a part of the building that started to float away during the flooding on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, in Canaan, N.H. An overnight storm caused the Indian River to flood. Poitras said that his wife works at Canaan Village Pizza and he wanted to help because Rossi is a good man. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lyndsay Brown, of Canaan, N.H., volunteers by placing sandbags on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, on Mascoma Valley Road in Canaan, N.H. An overnight storm caused the Indian River to flood. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Gabriel Bates, 13, of Canaan, N.H., walks with his drink from Canaan Village Pizza to dry land on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, in Canaan, N.H. An overnight storm caused the Indian River to flood. Gabriel's dad works at Canaan Village Pizza and was helping deal with the flooding. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • People stack sandbags in downtown Canaan, N.H., on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. An overnight storm caused flooding in town and power outages throughout the Twin States. (Valley News - Jordan Cuddemi) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Flooding is seen in downtown Canaan on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. (Canaan Police Department photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, October 30, 2017

Canaan — Thousands of Upper Valley residents were left without power on Monday as wind gusts over 60 mph and heavy rainfall hammered the Twin States, downing hundreds of trees and power lines and causing rivers and streams to flood back roads and state highways.

New Hampshire officials called the event the fourth-largest power outage in state history, with more than 450,000 in the dark.

State emergency management officials said the early morning storm “produced gusts of 78 mph at the Isles of Shoals and 68 mph inland” and also dumped 2 to 3 inches of rain across much of the state, with some locations reporting more than 5 inches of rain.

In Vermont, more than 70,000 customers were without power for at least part of Monday, and utility officials warned that service to some homes may not be restored for days.

In the Mascoma Valley, Canaan and Dorchester suffered the brunt of the damage along Route 4 and Route 118, and several volunteers pitched in to help area road crews redirect the Indian River’s flow away from homes and businesses in downtown Canaan.

Brothers Justin Andrew, 16, and Dirk Andrew, 14, received an alert early Monday morning that classes in the Mascoma Regional School District were canceled, as they were in several other area districts. The alert asked able Canaan residents to meet downtown to help fill sandbags, and the boys didn’t think twice.

“We just jumped in,” Justin Andrew said.

The boys and a dozen or so other volunteers in Canaan placed sandbags in a large arc around three downtown buildings in an attempt to divert the water flow away from Route 4 and back to the river, which runs behind a completely water-covered Williams Field.

Canaan Village Pizza Owner Jimmy Rossi marched barefoot through knee-deep floodwaters, stacking sandbag after sandbag in front of the doors around the building.

A worker outside said water had crept into the entryway of the eatery around noontime, but that Rossi’s efforts had mostly kept the floodwaters out.

North of the center of Canaan on Route 118, floodwaters rose and covered portions of the roadway for a few miles from Cardigan Mountain Road to the state Department of Transportation garage.

There, the road was closed to thru traffic because of high water, cutting off the town of Dorchester.

Despite the closing, some larger vehicles on lifts plunged through, forcing the water out into nearby fields.

Several backyards along the way were submerged in several feet of water and littered with debris. Later in the day, Canaan police said Route 4 at South Road was closed due to flooding.

Similar scenes were pictured in many New Hampshire and Vermont towns, where officials said the majority of both states were affected in some way or another by the powerful October storm.

Director of Vermont Emergency Management Erica Bornemann said much like utilities in New Hampshire, Vermont crews were actively working to restore power. However, she said, some utilities are reporting that it could be until Friday or Saturday before residents see their electricity restored.

Part of that delay is because several crews are in other parts of the United States and beyond helping restore power that recent hurricanes knocked out.

“One factor that is hampering the restoration effort along the Eastern Seaboard is the lack of available line crews to provide assistance to utilities. This storm cut a long path of destruction across several states and very few nearby crews are available to help,” the New Hampshire Electrical Co-op said in a news release. “In addition, a number of contract crews are in Puerto Rico assisting in the ongoing restoration effort there following Hurricane Maria more than a month ago. NHEC has secured outside crews from the Midwest and they will be en route to New Hampshire (on Monday).”

Towns along the Connecticut River also reported damages, including Orford and Thetford, which both suffered a significant blow to infrastructure after a train of thunderstorm cells blew through the region in July.

In Orford, Emergency Management Director Michael Gilbert said more than half of the town lost power.

The Jacobs Brook rose and hampered travel along Route 25A from downtown Orford east to Wentworth, N.H. Most of Route 25A had at least one lane open, but officials were forced to close a section of it near Upper Baker Pond Road. Gilbert estimated that crews closed roughly eight to 10 town roads due to downed trees and power lines and rising waters.

Thetford Selectman Stuart Rogers said most of the major connector roadways — Route 132, Tucker Hill, Latham Road, Robinson Hill, Academy Road, Godfrey Road — were closed at one point in time. Fortunately, he said, they were only impacted by fallen trees and power lines, and not damaging floodwaters, as they were in July.

“As far as road surface damage, we were good,” Rogers said. “Which we are very happy with.”

By mid-afternoon, most of the roads in Thetford were opened to thru-traffic and the town closed the Emergency Operations Center it had opened around 5:30 a.m.

Nearby in Lyme, Emergency Management Director Margaret Caudill-Slosberg posted on the Listserv that the town had about 300 residences without power due to fallen trees that impacted travel on a half dozen or so roads.

The Dowd Country Inn and other private residences in town opened shelters for residents in need.

Farther north, in Haverhill, the Blackmount Country Club reported several trees uprooted, and video from WMUR-TV showed floodwaters in Warren, N.H., lifting a home and carrying it down the Baker River. The home slammed into a bridge where it broke apart and drifted away in pieces.

In Grantham, Police Chief John Parsons said phone lines to both his department and the town offices still were down Monday afternoon, and he directed residents to use Newport dispatch for emergencies.

Safety was on the minds of several town and state officials.

“We’re asking everyone to focus on safety,” New Hampshire Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Perry Plummer said in a news release on Monday afternoon. “As of yet, no serious injuries have been reported, but branches and trees are still falling and strong winds are expected to continue this afternoon. Outages are being addressed as quickly as possible, but the state was hit incredibly hard and it may take days for power to be restored to all areas.”

Cornish Police Chief Doug Hackett said some residents in a home on Harrington Road were briefly trapped after a tree fell on their roof. They were uninjured, he said.

Plummer asked residents to utilize shelters if need be, stay away from downed power lines, to not drive on water-covered roadways and use generators in a safe manner.

Although some road crews were able to get their towns cleaned up and major roadways reopened, several workers battled into the evening to combat rising floodwaters and rid streets of fallen trees and live wires.

Among them were Plainfield and Cornish, where both had portions of Route 120 closed from downed trees and wires, said Plainfield Police Chief Paul Roberts.

Stage Road in Plainfield in the area of the highway garage also was closed. That road, as well as parts of Route 120, could stay shuttered for several days, he said. Power crews must deactivate live wires before crews can cut up the nearby trees.

Live wires sparked a small brush fire on Daniels Road in Plainfield on Monday, but fortunately it didn’t spread quickly, he said.

By 6 p.m., utility companies serving Upper Valley residents had restored powers to thousands of customers, but thousands more remained in the dark.

Maine was also hit hard, with more than 490,000 homes and businesses losing electricity, surpassing the peak number from an infamous 1998 ice storm, the Associated Press reported. Overall, more than 1.5 million people in New England lost power.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248