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Webster Lake cottages damaged severely by downburst of wind Tuesday night

  • The waters fo the Pemigewasset river spill over Eastman Falls Hydroelectric dam in Franklin; Wednesday, October 31, 2012.
  • Crews assess damage to a row of seasonal camps on Lake Shore Drive along Webster Lake in Franklin the morning after a microburst whipped through the area on Tuesday night;  Wednesday, October 31, 2012. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • From left: Codey Young, Jason Tremblay and Justin Rogers help clean up a friend's yard on Webster Lake in Franklin the morning after a microburst whipped through the area;  Wednesday, October 31, 2012. <br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

Cottage owners along Webster Lake in Franklin watched yesterday as construction crews began cleaning up the damage wrought by a downburst of wind that ripped along the lake Tuesday night just after 9.

“I burst into tears when I pulled in the driveway,” said Kim Jones, who owns a cottage on Lake Shore Drive that has been in her family since the 1930s. A pine tree fell right into the roof of the three-story garage next to Jones’s cottage, but the cottage itself was not completely destroyed. She travels from Boston most weekends to stay in the cottage, but was not staying in it this weekend because they had just put in brand-new hardwood floors.

Like Jones, most cottage owners do not live at the lake full time. At least eight cottages were damaged on Lake Shore Drive, and none of those were occupied when the damage occurred, said Kevin LaChapelle, chief of the Franklin Fire and Emergency Services. The fire department first responded to calls around 9:30 last night, and were working today to isolate power and assess damage. Massive tree trunks and branches were scattered in the streets and across lawns all along the lake.

Not all cottage owners fared as well as Jones. One house on Lake Shore Drive, for example, was completely crushed by a tree that hit on the right side of the house. The entire house was twisted and half of it was pulled off the frame.

The weather event that ripped through is called a downburst, said Chris Kimble, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. In downbursts, the wind goes straight across, rather than as a funnel cloud like a tornado. It occurred at approximately 9:24 p.m. Monday in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Across the lake, one resident of Webster Avenue did directly experience the burst. Christy Liolis and his wife were watching television in their bedroom when they heard the storm worsen outside. It sounded like a normal thunderstorm until the couple heard a crash as a tree went through their kitchen on the opposite side of the house.

“I heard the noise and I’m like ‘What the hell is that?’ ” he said. “I looked and it was like ‘Oh my god.’ ”

The Liolises stayed at their neighbors house overnight, and are hoping to be back in their house tonight. Workers arrived in the morning and had removed the tree and started patching up the holes in the roof as of the early afternoon. Liolis said an electrician was coming later in the day and if the wiring was alright, he and his wife would return to their house for the night.

In the 37 years they’ve lived in the house, a tree has never fallen on it, he said.

The clean-up effort will likely take days, said LaChapelle, the fire chief. Removing the trees will be the responsibility of homeowners, who will have to work with assessors and private contractors, he said.

Given the level of damage around the area, residents anticipated the response from insurance companies would take some time.

“I’m sure there’s a long line,” said Jones, as she prepared to head to the hardware store to buy supplies for her friends working on her roof.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or

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