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The aftermath: Memories washed away as tides, fatal nor'easter flood New England

New Hampshire Sunday News

March 03. 2018 8:32PM
A family walks through the water on Winnacunnet Road in Hampton on Saturday. (Nicole Goodhue Boyd/Union Leader)

Kendra Duvall cried when she saw what Saturday's high tide had done to the beachside cabana in North Hampton where generations of her family have held birthday parties, bridal showers, cookouts and star-gazing campouts for nearly a century.

Saturday morning, Duvall and other relatives were working furiously to board up the house; a neighbor had alerted them that the front doors had blown in overnight as a nor'easter pummeled the New England coast. By 11 a.m., they had to evacuate with the tide coming in, she said.

And when she returned a few hours later, she was crushed by what she saw. "The whole front was just torn off," she said.

A bathroom sink was outside in the parking lot, family photos and artwork were damaged or lost, and the doors that had been lovingly painted in a seaside motif by her late Great-Aunt Sally were gone.

"That was hard for us all to see," she said. "Buildings can be replaced. It's just when you have memories like that inside of a place, those things aren't as replaceable."

"When you see something that's a part of your childhood just smashed, it's shocking," she said.

Beach roads in Hampton, North Hampton and Rye were closed during high tide Saturday around noon. But that didn't deter some from driving, walking, or, in one case, piggybacking to the beach to see the storm's aftermath.

Mark Lane of Hampton Falls carried his 13-year-old daughter Emma on his back as he trekked to the beach Saturday afternoon.

"I've personally never seen anything like it," he said. "There's rivers of water going down the street. It's fascinating but terrible at the same time."

At one point, they spotted a seal in the flooded yard of one house. "He was just hanging out," Lane said.

New Hampshire was actually spared the brunt of the nor'easter that moved into New England on Friday.

Some 1.8 million customers remained without power throughout the eastern United States on Saturday, and communities on the New England coast faced more flooding a day after the storm snapped trees, downed wires and killed at least seven people.

Hampton Police Chief Richard Sawyer, who is also the town's emergency management director, was up until 3 a.m. Saturday directing the storm response efforts. He was back out a few hours later, giving Gov. Chris Sununu a tour of the trouble spots.

Sawyer said Saturday's conditions were more severe than on the previous day. "The tide was a lot higher with longer waves, so we had a lot more energy behind the water," he said. "So we saw a lot more damage and roads being flooded up on the boulevard."

Sawyer said a lot of people disregarded warnings to stay away. But he said nobody got hurt and there were no stranded cars as there had been the night before.

At one point, the Route 1A bridge had to be shut down because of the water and debris in the road, Sawyer said. The same was true of Winnacunnet and High streets. The only way off the beach was through Seabrook, he said.

"Whatever was in the water was coming over the wall," he said.

Beach roads were also closed in Rye and North Hampton, he said.

Still to come will be the damage assessment from the storm, Sawyer said. He's been in touch with the state Department of Transportation, which was working to reopen Route 1A.

Duvall said she's grateful to North Hampton firefighters who helped her family cope with the damage Saturday. "We really couldn't have done it without them," she said.

The storm's remnants continued to buffet the northeastern United States Saturday with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour, hampering efforts to restore power, even as the storm moved hundreds of miles out to sea.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Saturday, following similar announcements by the governors of Virginia and Maryland the previous day. The National Guard was deployed to several municipalities in eastern Massachusetts to help with rescue and evacuation efforts.

The problems carried over into Saturday, with hundreds of flights cancelled in and out of New York and Boston, according to the website. Trains were running with delays between Washington, D.C., and New York along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, after service was suspended for several hours earlier on Saturday due to power outages.

At its peak, the storm carried hurricane-force winds in excess of 90 miles per hour, sending seawater churning into streets in Boston and nearby shore towns - the second time the area has been flooded this year.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Public Safety Weather General News Hampton North Hampton

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