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As Hurricane Lee approaches, here’s how to prepare in NH

Flooding in North Hampton, March 2018
Dan Tuohy
Flooding in North Hampton, March 2018

Hurricane Lee is expected to arrive in the Gulf of Maine on Friday, and high winds and rain could hit parts of New Hampshire through the weekend.

The National Weather Service has issued a Tropical Storm Watch for coastal Rockingham county, with the potential for winds up to 57 miles per hour. Storm surges 2 feet above ground could happen Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon, and weather officials say there is a potential for flooding with around 1 inch of rain expected.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills has declared a state of emergency for that state, parts of which are under a hurricane watch and are expected to be hit harder than New Hampshire by Lee. Gov. Mills has also asked the federal government to issue an emergency disaster declaration, which would give Maine access to federal assistance.

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Climate change is linked to more frequent intense tropical storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

New Hampshire officials say the effects of Lee will be strongest on the Seacoast, but all Granite Staters could be affected by strong winds and should prepare.

The state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Robert Buxton says residents and visitors should monitor storm updates and sign up for NH Alerts to get emergency notifications.

People should follow instructions from local officials and should know how to evacuate in case they are told to. Rip currents could be stronger before and after the storm, so people should avoid swimming or other beach activities.

Residents can prepare by tying down objects that could get blown around by hurricane winds, like outdoor furniture, garbage cans, signs, or other loose objects.

People should also clear out rain gutters, move vehicles to safe locations, trim trees that could fall and cause damage, and prepare generators in case there’s a power outage, Buxton said.

Power outages

Utilities in the state have already brought in additional lineworkers to help with recovery efforts.

Alec O’Meara, with Unitil, says with tropical storms, high winds can cause issues for the bucket trucks that help fix power outages, especially above 35 miles an hour.

“When you see those winds, what it means is that the arm of the truck isn’t able to fully extend upwards,” he said. “Crews have to wait until they get past those peak gusts to be able to do work.”

That can cause longer outages than those seen during normal thunderstorms.

Another thing complicating power outages is the wet ground from this summer’s heavy rains, which has loosened tree roots. That, combined with heavy winds, has the potential to cause trees and limbs to crash into power lines and cause outages, Eversource President of Electric Operations Doug Foley said in a statement.

“Crews will be staged around the state with a heavy emphasis in the areas expecting the highest winds, particularly the Seacoast and other eastern areas of the state – so they’re ready to restore power as soon as it’s safe to do so,” he said.

The utilities are advising customers to prepare by making sure they have supplies of food and water, their electronics are fully charged, their flashlights have batteries, and they know where they will get information in the event of an outage. Checking in on neighbors and friends is also encouraged.

State officials say people’s emergency kits should have enough items for at least 72 hours.

For boat owners

Gino Marconi, the director of the New Hampshire Port Authority, says his advice for boat owners is to take them out of the water if they are small enough to fit on a trailer.

“Go put the boat in a secured place so that it's not sitting out on the mooring where it could be subject to the storm,” he said.

Marconi says at the harbors managed by the Port Authority, officials are preparing to secure anything loose and prepare for waves and tidal fluctuations.

Some commercial boats, like fishing boats, a whale watch boat and a ferry boat, are going to relocate to the ship terminal or the fish pier in Portsmouth to wait out the storm in more protected areas, Marconi said.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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