The blizzard hitting New England on Saturday had snow falling at 1-2 inches per hour in Seacoast New Hampshire and southern Maine in the early evening.
The brunt of the storm was upon us at dinnertime, especially in areas like Portsmouth, Rye, Hampton and Seabrook in New Hampshire, and York, Maine on the coast. Inland areas like Dover, Rochester, Exeter and more were generally seeking somewhat less snow with 12-18 inches expected across region, according to the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.
Chris Maglo, a meteorologist with NWS, said conditions would begin to subside after 8 p.m. and wind down quickly overnight.
“It’s a traditional nor’easter,” Maglo said. “The coast is definitely seeing the brunt of the storm. We have blizzard force winds and whiteout conditions.”
The snowfall locally was strong but not as much as seen in much of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Hurricane force winds off New Hampshire and Maine coast
A hurricane force wind warning was issued Saturday for offshore areas.
“It was blowing pretty good at the Isles of Shoals,” Maglo said at 5 p.m. “It was at 75 miles per hour at 2 p.m. It is still up around 60 miles per hour there now, about 40-45 on the coast.
The Isles of Shoals are visible from the New Hampshire coastline, about six miles offshore. They include Star Island.
“Winds will keep being gusty overnight,” he added. “The biggest factor then will be the cold. It is going to feel like 10 below zero because of the wind.”
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Early Saturday evening, Eversource and Unitil, utilities serving Seacoast New Hampshire, were reporting few customers without power.
Alec O’Meara of Unitil and William Hinkle of Eversource reported no outages by early afternoon. Late afternoon, they said they a small number of outages, with crews standing by and ready.
“As part of our preparation, we had secured out of state crews to assist,” Hinkle said. “We have released those crews to assist in Massachusetts. We have about 100,000 outages in eastern Massachusetts. When we are sure we are clear her in New Hampshire, we will send Eversource crews down to help as well.”
Central Maine Power was reporting close to 2,000 customers with outages around the state in early evening, but not in big numbers in York County or elsewhere. A company spokesperson said CMP had 200 employees, 286 contractors and nearly 300 tree workers who remain positioned to respond to any power outages Saturday evening and overnight.
“So far the wind has not been much of a factor in creating outages during this storm, but forecasts show it will continue to be windy, particularly along the coast, with the potential for strong gusts past midnight,” said CMP’s Adam Desrosiers. “We remain prepared to respond. With the frequent whiteout conditions our crews are traveling slowly and carefully, and we are taking that into consideration when estimating restoration times.”
CMP has coordinated with the Maine Emergency Management Agency, County Emergency Management agencies, and local municipalities to understand local restoration priorities and any safety concerns.
NWS meteorologist Michael Clair said the impact of high tide could be significant in New Hampshire and southern Maine coastal communities.
“This evening’s high tide will be a little after 8 p.m.,” said Clair. “The waves will be bigger but the water will be about two feet lower so I don’t see huge problems. There might be some flooding but this morning’s tide was expected to be the worst.”
Road crews get to work
John Storer, director of Community Services in Dover, was expecting a busy afternoon and evening.
“This past week, the crews have done all their pre-checks of the equipment so we are ready to go,” he said. “Something almost always breaks down during a big storm, but right now we are at 100% capacity. We sent out 10-12 people this morning, salting and sanding the primary roads and we will have a full crew of about 30 by this afternoon, all hands on deck.”
At 5 p.m., Storer said his crew were doing well.
“They are staying on top of the storm and are waiting now for it to stop soo they can go into cleanup mode. The hardest part is the cold. Drivers are needing to pull over to clear their wipers for visibility, which are freezing in the cold temperatures. By morning roads will be clear and this will be another memory.”
The most important message Storer wanted to share is advising residents to stay off the roads during the city’s snow emergency which began at 8 p.m. Friday and continues until 10 a.m. on Sunday.
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“It is really important for us to be able to get our wing plows out to move the snow from the curb areas,” Storer said. “The police department has two towing companies on standby. We don’t like to do it, but having cars off the road is vital to moving the snow.”
Somersworth Police Chief David Kretschmar had a similar message for safety: “I would advise people to stay off the roads as much as possible until the storm has ended.”
How to contact your electric company
Central Maine Power: cmpco.com