Storm damage still has many without power, phone, internet, TV; elections impacted

  • Elizabeth Christensen of Belmont fills out her ballots for town elections and Shaker Regional School District at Belmont High School on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Belmont town moderator Alvin Nix stands at the ballot counters during voting hours at Belmont High School on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Voting takes place for Belmont town elections and Shaker Regional School District at Belmont High School on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Metrocast logo —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Friday, March 17, 2017

Two days after a snowstorm swept through New Hampshire and upended town meeting season, parts of the Lakes Region remained offline Thursday as power and telephone crews worked to restore service.

“Driving through town, I couldn’t believe the damage, the trees down,” said Gilmanton Assistant Town Administrator Heidi Duval at noon Thursday. Power had been restored to her house just a half-hour earlier.

New England Electric Cooperative said 15,000 customers were out of power at the height of the storm and 4,000 remained without as of Thursday morning.

In Gilmanton, which held its voting as scheduled Tuesday, power went out at the academy building about 5 p.m., knocking out ballot-counting machines.

Town Clerk Debra Cornett “made sure that the polls stayed open until 7 p.m.” as legally required, collecting the remaining ballots by hand, Duval said.

“By 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, when power came on at town hall, she had a full crew here and had the company come here with a new machine, and they were able to do the entire count and get the whole election counted,” Duval said.

The only drawback?

“We don’t have internet, so we couldn’t post results online,” she said.

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative was hit hard by the storm as well.

“A Personal Weather Station on Metcalf Road in Sandwich recorded a peak wind gust of 62 mph on Tuesday night. In that same area of Metcalf Road, we found about 2,000 feet of downed wire due to multiple trees down on the wires,” NEEC spokesman Seth Wheeler said.

“In the Melvin Village part of Tuftonboro, 30 consecutive spans of wire – more than a mile – needed to be cleared of trees and branches before the line could be re-energized. We spent most of the first night of the storm responding to emergency calls: wires on cars, wires and trees down on houses, etc. Further slowing the restoration has been the closure of numerous town roads due to fallen trees and branches. Tree crews have been as valuable as line crews in this storm,” he wrote in an email response to a Monitor query.

Unitil and Eversource also reported major outages in various parts of the state, with 50,000 customers affected at one point.

Metrocast, which provides telephone, internet and TV service in a number of towns, also was impacted as falling trees pulled down service lines. Service was lost in 43 towns, the company said, and 15 were still without service in at least some areas.

That includes Belmont, where as of Thursday morning there was still no phone service to town hall or the police department, although the emergency line and 911 service was working.

That didn’t stop voting – postponed from Tuesday – taking place at Belmont High School, where the phones were working.

“They’re splicing fiber-optic cables, which is not necessarily a quick process,” said Mike Todd, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Safety.

“When there is damage to the lines, it’s not a matter of Metrocast just going out and reconnecting the line. They’re third in the process: first the utility has to clear any power lines, then you have to clear the trees away, then they can go out and reconnect the fiber cables,” he said.

Electric and telecommunications services were expected to be restored to virtually all customers by Friday evening.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)