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Dangerously strong winds gusting to more than 50 mph felled trees, knocked out power to thousands of Granite Staters Sunday and resulted in the death of a Tilton man in Laconia.
The winds followed an Arctic cold front that pushed through New England late Saturday. Winds gusted at 107 mph at mid-afternoon on Mount Washington.
In Laconia, a worker with a tree company removing a tree from a roadway was killed about 4:15 p.m. when he was struck by a nearby tree that suddenly crashed to the ground.
"He was in the roadway cutting up the tree when the tree directly behind the 54-year-old Tilton man snapped in the wind and fell on him," said Laconia Fire Lt. Chad Vaillancourt. "We immediately began cutting to remove the branches and limbs, but when they got to him it was apparent" the man was dead.
The accident happened near 26 Davidson Drive in the South Down Shores development in Laconia.
Several hours of falling trees and limbs resulted in the loss of power to thousands of New Hampshire residents in communities in virtually every part of the state.
"There are very few areas that are not impacted," said Martin Murray, a spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire. "We've had limbs and branches come down on wires and equipment and that has knocked out power and tripped some circuits."
More than 25,000 households were still without power early Sunday evening.
Murray said Public Service expected spot power outages to continue through the night as winds continued to cause trees and limbs to fall into electrical wires.
"With a windstorm like this, you certainly have limbs and branches from well outside the trim zone coming onto roads and wires and equipment," Murray said. "This is not just a windy day, this is a real interesting wind storm, carrying a lot of potential for damage."
Local contractors who are on-call for Public Service were called in to help restore power; officials were working to bring in crews from out-of-state Sunday night.
I-93 shut down
At mid-afternoon Sunday, a two-mile stretch of Interstate 93 in Concord was closed to traffic after a large cable stretching across the highway was knocked down by the high winds about 2 p.m.
I-93 was closed in both directions from Exit 14, Loudon Road, to Exit 16, state Route 132, for about three hours.
State police said north and southbound traffic was re-routed from I-93 via Exits 15 and 16. A work crew from Comcast was not able to secure the cable to its original position, so cut the fiber optic cable so the roadway could re-open.
The University of New Hampshire experienced a mid-afternoon outage. The power to about half the Durham campus went off at about 3 p.m. and was restored in less than an hour.
Downed power lines also sparked brush fires in Durham and Northwood.
Meteorologist James Brown of the Weather Service Forecast Office at Gray, Maine, which serves New Hampshire, said a strong difference in air pressure brought on by a blast of air from the Arctic led to the windy conditions.
"We're probably 20 degrees below normal for this date," Brown said. "It does happen at this time of year, but these are temperatures that are more like they would be in January."
The windy weather followed Saturday night's icy conditions on Granite State roads. Dozens of automobile accidents were reported around the state, with several reports of cars flipping over as a result of hitting patches of ice.
Forecasters say there will be a different sort of challenge for motorists who travel on Wednesday, one of the busiest days of the year for pleasure travel.
"We've got another system that is going to be affecting us toward the middle of the week," said Brown, of the National Weather Service. "The cold air will lift before it gets here so most areas will be seeing rain, although it may be cold enough in the mountains for snow."
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