LIVE UPDATES: Blizzard of 2013 moves into New Hampshire, Gov. Hassan declares state of emergency
Matt Reidy pulls Sam Earp along in a sled while heading to WhitePark on Friday afternoon, February 8, 2013. The boys and some friends had the day off from school in Concord. (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
A man leaves the School Street parking garage in Concord Friday afternoon, February 8, 2013. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
A large winter storm is moving into New England today with forecasters predicting up to 2 feet of snow through tomorrow in some areas.
Stay tuned to this page for breaking-news updates from the Monitor’s staff throughout the day.
6 p.m.: Gov. Hassan declares state of emergency
With forecasted snow totals increased to 30 inches for some parts of the state, Gov. Maggie Hassan has declared a state of emergency for New Hampshire.
“The expected snow totals have now reached levels where a state of emergency is needed to allow for the mobilization of additional resources and to access any federal assistance that may become available,” Hassan said in a news release. “I continue to urge all residents to stay safe, limit their travel and be off the roads by 7 p.m. ahead of the heaviest snowfalls.”
The state of emergency was in effect as of 5 p.m., allowing the governor to mobilize state assets and resources more effectively as the snow totals increase.
5 p.m.: Monitor going to press early
To help our delivery drivers deal with the storm, the Monitor is going to press two hours early tonight.
Be sure to check out tomorrow’s print edition for full storm coverage. (But please be understanding if your copy arrives a little later than usual.)
4:15 p.m.: 3 minor crashes in Concord
As of 4 p.m., today, three minor motor vehicle crashes had happened on Concord roads, according to police.
The crashes happened at the intersection of Loudon and Old Loudon roads, the intersection of Centre and Main streets and on Pleasant Street, according to Concord police Lt. Mike McGuire.
McGuire had not spoken to the officers who responded to the crashes, so he could not say with certainty they were weather related.
State police dispatch Supervisor Shelley Marshall said they’ve been responding to vehicles off the road “just about everywhere.”
Interstate 93 was particularly troubled, she said.
As for advice for drivers, Marshall said, “I’d say just what the governor said earlier: Try to be off the road by 7 p.m.” —SARAH PALERMO
4:05 p.m.: Some grocery stores open late
If you still need to stock up on groceries, head out now before most of Concord’s stores close within the next few others.
Only Hannaford plans on staying open through its normal hours, until midnight, but that could change if the weather gets worse. The Market Basket on Fort Eddy Road will close at 5 p.m., and the one on Storrs Street will close at 6 p.m. Both Shaw’s will close at 6 p.m.
As for tomorrow, all stores plan to be open for normal hours, but that’s subject to change.
“Nobody knows what’s we’re going to wake up to,” said Tom Beakey, store director for the Market Basket on Fort Eddy Road.
All of the stores were very busy last night and today in preparation for the storm. The Storrs Street Market Basket did two days worth of business yesterday, said store director Brian Boucher, but luckily the store remained stocked with all popular items, although bread and milk were on high demand. Despite the crowds, things remained calm, he said.
“Overall everybody was fantastic, no pushing, no shoving, everybody was well controlled,” he said. “We crank em out pretty good through here.” —KATHLEEN RONAYNE
3:35 p.m.: Light traffic in central N.H.
Highway traffic in the Concord area is considerably lighter than normal this afternoon, said Lt. Greg Ferry, commander of the New Hampshire State Police’s Troop D in Concord.
There have been some vehicles off the road, but no major injuries, he said. In other areas of the state, further north and along Route 101 near the Seacoast, there seems to be more traffic and vehicles off the road, Ferry said. —KATHLEEN RONAYNE
3:25 p.m.: Winter Storm Warning
Here’s the latest from the National Weather Service, a Winter Storm Warning issued at 3:08 p.m. by the service’s Gray, Maine, station:
The warning is in effect until 4 p.m. tomorrow. Twelve to 18 inches of snow is expected across the region, with winds of 10 to 20 mph and gusts up to 40 mph. Visibility will be a quarter-mile or less at times, and temperatures will range from 5 to 19 degrees.
3:10 p.m.: One dead in Auburn crash
A man is dead in Auburn after he lost control of his car and hit a tree, WMUR reports.
The station reports the crash appears to be related to the storm.
2:50 p.m.: You’re not getting mail
If you’ve got mail or a package to be delivered, don’t expect it to happen this weekend. The U.S. Postal Service is pulling all drivers in the New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont district off the road by 3 p.m., the local Fed Ex office closed at 2 p.m. and the United Postal Service in Concord will close at 4 p.m. today.
UPS won’t open again until 7:30 a.m. Monday morning, Fex Ex on Sunday at 9 a.m. and, as of now, the Post Office will be open again tomorrow. —KATHLEEN RONAYNE
2:35 p.m.: Shoppers going for food, batteries, flashlights
By about 1:30 p.m., gas stations and several store parking lots along Loudon Road in Concord were sparse, with some people still braving the cold and snow to grab lunch, groceries or to duck in to the local tire shop.
Inside the Target on D’Amante Drive a few shopping carts bulged with dry goods such as bread, cereal and other dry goods. Jake Evans, an employee in the electronics department, said store traffic didn’t seem any slower than at any other Friday at midday.
“Mostly people are coming in for batteries, food and flashlights,” Evans said. “We’re not selling a lot of TVs today.”
Down the street, at Town Fair Tires, store manager Adam DeMaggio said some people had come in yesterday to make last minute snow tire purchases. DeMaggio said he was waiting to find out whether the store would be closed Saturday morning, when the brunt of the storm is slated to hit.
“We don’t typically close but with the severity of this storm we might have to end up doing that,” DeMaggio said.
Winds were still mild by around 2 p.m., and a number of snow plow trucks could be seen out driving the streets, their blades raised, poised for the worst to come. —JEREMY BLACKMAN
2:25 p.m.: State courts closed
All New Hampshire state courts are closed, as of 2:30 p.m.
The U.S. District Court in Concord is open as usual.
2:15 p.m.: Snow means no stars
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center has canceled tonight’s evening program, Super Stellar Friday Teen Night.
The center will remain open until 5 p.m. today and is planning on opening again by noon tomorrow. —KATHLEEN RONAYNE
2:15 p.m. Beaches closed
Not that many people are jumping in the water on a normal February day anyway, but the state has closed all beaches on the Seacoast until Sunday morning.
2:10 p.m: USPS closing up shop
The United States Postal Service is closing some of its post offices early today.
“Many Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont post offices will be closing at 3 p.m. today to allow their employees to avoid the worst of blizzard conditions on their drive home during today’s storm,” the service said in a news release. “With public safety officials warning the public to avoid travel on area roadways, Postal Service officials are allowing local postmasters to use discretion in shutting down operations early in the interest of their employees’ traveling safety.”
Post offices should be open as usual tomorrow.
2:10 p.m.: PSNH brings in help
Public Service of New Hampshire is bringing in crews all the way from Alabama and Oklahoma to respond to possible power outages from the storm, said spokesman Martin Murray. Responders include at least 75 two-person PSNH line crew, 200 external two-man line and tree crews, and a number of crews brought in specially for the storm to total about 1,100 people, Murray said.
“In terms of us going out and getting crews in advance it indicates the seriousness with which we’re addressing this,” Murray said.
PSNH expects outages at due primarily to wind rather than the snow, which is supposed to be light and dry. Murray said they expect the most damage overnight and in the southern parts of the state and along the Seacoast. Crews will be responding as outages happen and will be “full restoration mode” by first light tomorrow morning, he said. —KATHLEEN RONAYNE
1:55 p.m.: CAT buses on schedule
Concord Area Transit buses are scheduled to run until 6:30 p.m., and they likely will complete that schedule, according to dispatcher Donna Poulin.
“We do not close early unless ordered to by the government,” she said. “I’ve been here 10 years, and we’ve never ordered to shut down. We drive through anything. We may be slow but we can get there.”
The bus line does not operate on Saturdays or Sundays. —SARAH PALERMO
1:50 p.m.: Hassan: Be home by 7 p.m.
Gov. Maggie Hassan is urging all New Hampshire residents to be off the roads and in a safe place before the worst of the storm hits tonight.
“I encourage residents today to plan ahead so that they can be off the roads before 7 p.m.,” she said at a media briefing.
Hassan said dry, light snow is in the forecast, so widespread power outages aren’t expected, but some outages are possible. But road conditions will definitely become hazardous, she said.
“These weather conditions are serious and people should take them seriously,” Hassan said.
But at this point, she said, there isn’t the need for a formal declaration of a state of emergency.
1:30 p.m.: Some employers send workers home
Some employees at Lincoln Financial Group and Concord Hospital will be allowed to leave early to avoid the roads during the worst of the storm, projected to be around 5 p.m.
“To a great extent, the decision to release early is being made on departmental basis,” said Byron Champlin, assistant vice president at Lincoln Financial.
Many employees will be allowed to leave between 4 and 4:30 p.m., he said. That would be the end of the regular work day for some, but several hours early for employees in some departments that usually operate until 7 or 8 p.m., he said.
Concord Hospital officials told managers to release staff that aren’t directly responsible for patient care who have finished their duties and live far away, said Joe Conley, chief operating officer.
As many as 50 members of the clinical staff may spend the night in the hospital to avoid driving on the roads at night, he said.
“On a given day, it’s nothing like that. This is just because of the snow storm, people can’t get here, or can’t get away from here,” he said.
Patients with appointments at any of the hospital’s physician practices tomorrow should call the office before heading out to make sure the doctor is in and the office is open, he said.
“We’re planning for the offices to be open, but we don’t know, and given the magnitude of the storm, we’re going to have to see what happens.” —SARAH PALERMO
1:25 p.m.: People still shopping downtown
As of the early afternoon, people were still out on Main Street and shopping in the Fort Eddy Road and Loudon Road areas.
Local store owners, including at Things Are Cooking and The Works Bakery Cafe, said they’re working with limited staff today and may close early.
The Barley House will stay open tonight on its normal hours.
Several people strolling along Main Street said they weren’t too concerned with the weather yet.
“It’s nothing,” said Dennis Lylen, a Concord resident. He said he’s planning on keeping his normal routine, which includes getting up at 7 a.m. tomorrow and going to his favorite cafe for breakfast.
Stephanie Rege and Chris Perriello, also walking on Main Street, came up from Massachusetts for the weekend and plan to ski at Mount Sunapee Resort tomorrow.
“We’re really excited for the snow,” Rege said. “It’s been a dry couple of years.” —JEREMY BLACKMAN
1:20 p.m.: 18-24 inches of snow predicted
Between 18 and 24 inches of snow is predicted for central New Hampshire, making it the biggest snowstorm in the region since October 2011.
Meteorologists are predicting two different low pressure systems to merge just south of New England, causing the heavy snow fall, said Chris Legrow at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. One of those systems has been moving through the upper Midwest and is over the eastern Great Lakes right now, and the other formed in the Gulf Coast and is currently near the Carolinas.
Snow fall rates in southern New England have started to pick up and by mid-afternoon conditions will be “heading rapidly downhill,” Legrow said. The snowfall should be the worst overnight, and wind gusts will reach 25 to 30 miles per hour.
The storm will linger into Saturday morning but central New Hampshire can expect “rapid improvement” by tomorrow afternoon, Legrow said.
So far this winter, snowfall in the Concord area at 23.6 inches, which is far behind the average of 38.6 inches. But if the predictions of 18 to 24 inches are correct, snowfall will exceed average levels by the end of the weekend. —KATHLEEN RONAYNE
1:20 p.m.: National Guard on standby
Jim Van Dongen, spokesman for the Department of Safety, said the state has been preparing for the storm for several days. That prep includes conference calls with the National Weather Service, local and state emergency officials, the state department of transportation, public utilities commission, health and human services and other departments.
The State Emergency Operations Center will open at 4 p.m. and be staffed with six to 12 people throughout the night.
The National Guard is on standby, he said, and Gov. Maggie Hassan will hold a press briefing at 1:30 p.m.
“Really the message from all of us, for days now, is if people can stay off the roads, that’s how they’ll stay safe,” Van Dongen said. —KATHLEEN RONAYNE
1:20 p.m.: More Concord closings
The Concord Family YMCA is closing at 6 p.m. and plans to reopen at 10 a.m. tomorrow. All classes today and tomorrow have been canceled.
And Red River Theatres will close at 4 p.m. It plans to reopen tomorrow at 5 p.m.
12:55 p.m.: No more coach buses until Sunday
The last bus out of Concord via Concord Coach Lines left this morning at about 11 a.m., and service isn’t expected to resume until Sunday, according to Heidi Lessard, Concord Coach customer service manager.
Company representatives are scheduled to be at the office today through 10 p.m., and tomorrow as of 5 a.m., to answer phones but the office will be closed to the public, she said.
“We’re no different than the police, fire and all that who have to stay out there to keep their customers happy,” Lessard said. —SARAH PALERMO
12:55 p.m.: MHT open, but few flights
Many commercial flights out of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport are also suspended due to the storm.
Airlines have been rebooking passengers for the last couple days in preparation, according to Tom Malafronte, assistant airport manager.
He expects airline operations to end for the day at about 5 p.m., mostly due to the forecasted increase in intensity of the snowfall and winds after that time, Malafronte said.
“They need to think about the flights, but also can their customers and employees get to and from the airport safely,” he said.
Even without flights, the airport will operate with a full staff through the storm, he said.
“We’ll be here beginning to end, and we hope to get things back to normal operations late tomorrow afternoon.”
To check on the status of a flight, visit flymanchester.com/flights. —SARAH PALERMO
12:35 p.m.: Officials: Be safe in the woods
State and federal officials want people to be careful if they’re out in the woods or on trails during the storm.
“We are urging the public, whether you’re hiking, camping, snowmobiling or fishing anywhere in the state, to keep safety foremost in mind before heading out during this big storm, and to monitor weather conditions closely as the weekend progresses,” said Col. Martin Garabedian, of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Law Enforcement Division, in a news release. “Deep snow and high winds in backcountry areas will hamper rescue efforts during the storm. For your safety and the safety of rescue personnel, please use caution when recreating outdoors and plan ahead.”
Officials from the White Mountain National Forest say the conditions above treeline will be extreme: whiteout conditions, a foot or more of snow and winds of 80 mph to 90 mph.
12:25 p.m.: Extra cops on the street
The New Hampshire State Police’s “Winter Storm Plan” is now in effect. That means any and all available troopers will be out on the road in uniform, including detectives who normally patrol in plain clothes, said Lt. Greg Ferry, commander for Troop D in Concord. Shifts will also be extended to overlap so that extra people are on duty at all times.
“We’ll have whatever manpower it takes to keep up with the incidents that come,” Ferry said. “Anyone that has a cruiser with blue lights, we try to get them out there to assist.”
The Concord Police Department will also have extra staff and parking monitors on duty through the night, said spokesman Lt. Tim O’Malley. They’re urging people to follow the city’s instructions to not park on the streets. —KATHLEEN RONAYNE
12:15 p.m.: Unitil prepares for outages
Unitil says it will open its emergency operations centers this afternoon.
“Should outages occur, Unitil will be restoring power as conditions allow during the overnight hours, with an emphasis on public safety and working with first responders to address wires down issues,” said Unitil spokesman Alec O’Meara in a news release. “Should we experience blizzard-like conditions driving conditions will be hazardous and bucket trucks will be unable to extend arms due to high winds at the storm’s peak, which could delay restoration.”
Concord-area customers can report outages by calling 1-800-852-3339 or online at unitil.com/report-outage.
12:15 p.m.: ‘Chorus Line’ canceled
The Capitol Center for the Arts has canceled tonight’s performance of “A Chorus Line.”
Here’s the note posted on the center’s Facebook page:
“At 11:30 p.m. Thursday, February 7 the Capitol Center Production Manager was contacted by the A Chorus Line tour manager and was informed that they were not going to be able to make it out of Pennsylvania and up to Concord for their scheduled performance at the Capitol Center on Friday evening February 8. Capitol Center staff will revisit the question of re-scheduling a performance at a later date with the tour agent in New York on Friday morning. We will send/post another notice when there is additional information to pass along. In the meantime, continue to prepare for the upcoming storm and stay safe. Thank you for your patience and goodwill as we make our way through this challenging situation.”
12:15 p.m.: Parking ban in Concord
Concord has declared an on-street parking ban tonight, from midnight to 7 a.m. Saturday, for all city streets.
Parking is still allowed in the three downtown municipal garages, and will be free from 5 p.m. today until Monday morning.