Saturday, October 29, 2011

NEW ENGLAND: Trick or treat: Big storm expected tonight

They weren’t planning to put ice melt on display in October, but employees at ACE Ben Franklin in Raymond decided they’d better after customers began asking for it Friday.
“You can’t live in the country and not be ready,” said store clerk Lynn L’Abbee.

With forecasters calling for a rare and potentially record-breaking nor’easter to pound New Hampshire this weekend, many people spent Friday preparing for the pre-Halloween howler.

The storm is expected to dump 6 to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow across the state tonight and into Sunday morning. The sticky nature of the snow will cause it to cling to power lines and trees, many of which still haven’t lost their leaves in southern areas.

“For October, it’s going to be a major storm,”
said Michael Cempa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.  Snow won’t be the only problem. Winds are expected to blow up to 40 mph.  “With all that snow on the trees, it will just add to the problems,” Cempa said.

Utility companies are bracing for widespread and possibly long-lasting power outages as a result of the storm, which is predicted to wrap up Sunday morning.

Unitil, Public Service of New Hampshire, and New Hampshire Electric Cooperative were among the utilities mobilizing crews on Friday and preparing to call on outside help if outages are widespread.  “There is a high probability of extensive damage to the electrical grid,”
said Unitil spokesman Alec O’Meara.

Other preparations include checking their supply of utility poles, transformers, cable, and other equipment, along with fueling and loading all company service and repair vehicles, PSNH spokesman Matthew Chagnon said.

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative had its nine operating districts stocked with the materials needed for an “extended outage event,” spokesman Seth Wheeler said.  State emergency officials also warned residents to take precautions, especially since the storm is the first of the season.

“With the first winter storm people need to be reminded to slow down on the highways and allow extra space between vehicles,” said Christopher M. Pope, director of the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

With some towns holding trick-or-treating Sunday night, utility officials said they’re concerned about parents and their children walking around neighborhoods with live wires down.  While the frightening forecast prompted some people to stock up on storm supplies like shovels, ice scrapers, batteries, and water, others are taking the early season storm in stride.

Kerri Burker, 24, of Chester, said she was looking forward to the storm because she just bought a new Arctic Cat snowmobile and is supposed to bring it home today.  “Maybe I’ll get to test drive it,” she said.

John Foy of Newton planned to tune up his snowblower, but that was about it. If the power goes out like it did briefly when a light coating of snow fell Thursday night, Foy said he’s got a wood stove and a generator.

On the bright side, the snow probably won’t stick around long, with temperatures warming from the 40s Sunday into the 50s next week.
“We’ll be able to be cleared up quickly as far as the snow goes and there’s no bitter cold following this,” Cempa said.