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Tuesday storm slams homes in Lyme as it tears through Upper Valley

  • Raymond Cummings, of Thetford, Vt., picks up a few branches next to his car at his niece's home in Lyme, N.H., on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Cummings is staying with his niece, Jeri Wilmot, because he recently had a heart attack. He bought the car two weeks ago, making the first payment on it the day before. Tuesday night a powerful thunderstorm passed through the area leaving trees and power lines down. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Jeri Wilmot, of Lyme, N.H., looks over the damage at her home on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Helping her is her son, Charlie Jenks, left, and her son-in-law Tim Audet, who lives next door. Thunderstorms hit her house hard, taking down trees, a telephone pole, destroying a gazebo and two snowmobiles in a trailer. Wilmot's husband died a week ago. She is also taking care of her uncle, who recently had a heart attack. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dan Hewes of J&J Excavating works on a washout along Goose Pond Road in Lyme, N.H., on Wednesday, July, 21, 2021. Damaging thunderstorms hit the area on Tuesday night, leaving trees and power lines down. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2021 1:16:37 PM
Modified: 7/21/2021 6:38:41 PM

LYME — Looking at the downed tree limbs lying around his family’s yard Wednesday, the newly purchased SUV crushed under a thick tree trunk and the patio roof broken in half, Raymond Cummings shook his head.

“There was nothing I could do,” he said of the storm that tore through the neighborhood Tuesday night.

The property on Goose Pond Road, by Baker Hill Road, where Cummings is staying with family members, suffered some of the worst damage of the storm, which moved through the Upper Valley from around 8 p.m. Tuesday to early Wednesday morning. The storm’s winds ranged from 40 to 60 miles per hour but did not cause any reported injuries in Lyme or Hanover, which were some of the hardest-hit towns.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Evenson, with the Burlington station, the storm was part of a line of storms — typically called a squall line — that came through Canada, upstate New York and northern parts of Vermont before reaching the Upper Valley and crossing into New Hampshire on Tuesday night. He said the storm downed trees and knocked out power throughout the state.

Though there were no injuries, the high winds did cause damage, especially to the short stretch of Goose Pond Road in Lyme. Cummings said the winds brought down one tree on top of the house, one on top of the patio, another on the his 2017 Kia Sportage — which Cummings bought two weeks ago — and a fourth tree on a portable trailer for snowmobiles, which had two vehicles inside.

His nephew, Charlie Jenks, said the wind also pulled some electrical poles out of the ground, leaving the family without power throughout the day Wednesday.

Jenks recalled Tuesday night’s chaotic scene, saying that the power went out quickly at the beginning of the night, followed by strong winds around 9 p.m.

“The wind started picking up. ... It shook the whole house,” he said.

It wasn’t until the family pointed their flashlights outside that they saw the trees lying across their vehicles and roof.

Jenks and Cummings were clearing branches from their yard Wednesday afternoon as road crews worked a few feet away, pulling tree limbs, trunks and other debris out of Goose Pond Road.

Other properties in the area were also hit hard, though few residents saw the level of damage that Cummings and Jenks did. Just a few houses away, on Baker Hill Road, Steve Pushee said he saw the heavy rain and lost power Tuesday night around 8:30. A short time later, he said, he looked out to his driveway to see a foot of water moving through, coming from a culvert that overflowed nearby.

“There was a river right here,” he said, motioning to his driveway. When he checked his basement, Pushee said he saw a “waterfall” coming in from a door to the outside.

Lyme Police Chief Shaun O’Keefe, explained that the rain washed away about 4 feet off the side of Baker Hill Road, which is a dirt road, calling the work to repair it a “pretty significant fix.”

He said firefighters and road crews from Lyme also had to go into the woods to remove telephone and electrical poles that had been tossed into the forest by the wind.

Lyme Fire Chief Michael Mundy said between the fire department and road crews, around 15 to 18 workers were out in Lyme on Tuesday night, clearing branches and trunks from the roads until around 1 a.m. Wednesday. Some sections, like a stretch of Baker Hill Road, were impossible to clear at night and remained blocked by trees until later Wednesday morning.

“We’re seeing these storms more and more,” said Mundy, who’s been a firefighter in the area for 20 years. Until recent years, he said, he remembered only the occasional tree that would fall on a phone line in the middle of a storm. “Now there’s more violent fronts that come through.”

Just south of Lyme, Hanover reported seeing damage to trees and properties as a result of the storm as well. Hanover Fire Chief Marty McMillan said a corridor of Route 10 leading into Lyme, as well as some properties in the area, had downed trees and branches. In one northern part of Hanover, along Route 10, the rain washed out a side of the road, making what McMillan said looked like a “sinkhole,” that road crews were repairing Wednesday.

“There were multiple trees down and a lot of debris all over our roads,” McMillan said. He estimated the department responded to around 20 calls as a result of the storm but, unlike Lyme, he said no Hanover residents reported trees falling on their homes or severely damaging their property.

“We anticipated things were going to be a lot worse,” he said.

The pockets of damage were caused by strong winds coming down from above as the line of storms moved through the area, said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Cempa, who is with the Gray, Maine, office that oversees New Hampshire weather.

“We get something like this a couple times a year,” Cempa said. “It has been very humid and that fuels the fire for developing these storms.”

This is the second serious storm the Upper Valley has seen in the last month; in late June a storm brought down several trees around a neighborhood in Quechee.

However, Everson said he doesn’t think the area will experience similar weather events within the next few weeks.

“The good news is we’re getting into a pattern now where a lot of air is coming down from Canada so it’s cooler and drier,” he said.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@gmail.com or 603-727-3216.




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