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Five years later, N.H. victims recall harrowing tornado

It’s been five years since a tornado tore through 11 communities in New Hampshire, killing one person and damaging more than 200 homes in the state.

The National Weather Service said the tornado July 24, 2008, set a record in New England, cutting a 50-mile path of destruction from Concord to Maine. The previous record in New England for the longest tornado path was marked June 9, 1952, in Worcester, Mass., at 46 miles.

The tornado focused on communities in the central part of the state, including in the Barnstead, Epsom and Deerfield areas. In Alton, it flattened a once-heavily forested area on its way to the Merrymeeting River Mobile Home Park.

“I hollered to my wife, and we got down on the floor, and the trailer started shaking and trees were falling and debris was flying by,” resident Roger Thivierg told WMUR. “It was pretty scary. The noise was like a freight train, like they said. In a matter of seconds, it was over, and when I got up and looked out the door, there was a big tree laying across my neighbor’s car. They had just got out of it, and debris was, like, 3 feet deep all over the place.”

In Deerfield, Brenda Stevens, 57, was killed when her home collapsed. But she was able to protect her 2-month-old grandson, John.

“Brenda was holding onto him, and when the tornado came through, my father ran down to get to the both of them,” Jeremy Stevens, the baby’s father, said afterward. “From what I gather, (the baby) was pulled out of her arms, and she held onto him long enough so that he didn’t get thrown around.”

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