, Derry, New Hampshire

November 1, 2012

Sandy knocks out Derry and Londonderry

Utility crews, residents clean up after Sandy

By Julie Huss and James Niedzinski

---- — Residents prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.

Sandy brought some of both when she swept in Monday, a year to the day after more than 30 inches of snow fell on the region, leaving residents in the dark for days.

For some, especially in Londonderry, it was a painful reminder of feeling powerless.

Public Service of New Hampshire said Londonderry was one of the hardest hit towns and it could take days before all customers had power restored.

But, many said, it could have been worse.

“We had a long preparation time,” Londonderry fire Chief Kevin MacCaffrie said. “People in no way, shape or form were taken surprise by this. They stayed off the roads and that helped.”

School buses were off the road. Both school districts canceled classes Monday and Tuesday.

In Derry, police Capt. Vernon Thomas said experience paid off.

“We made out better than we thought,” he said. “We had significant winds, but we have experience dealing with those winds.”

Communication can be key in a town’s response to a major storm.

MacCaffrie said the fire department made good use of its Twitter account and emergency text messaging.

In addition, officials warned residents on Brookview Drive and Parmenter Road of possible flooding before the storm hit, he said.

Sandy generated fewer calls than last year’s October snowstorm, MacCaffrie said. The fire department received 78 calls, compared to more than 150 last year, he said.

ALERT, A Londonderry Emergency Response Team, had about 20 members on standby if the regional shelter at Londonderry High School was needed, according to ALERT vice president Colleen Monks. But the shelter never opened, although more than a dozen were available statewide.

For once, Gerald and Dorothy Gulezian of Brookview Drive in Londonderry did not have to pump out their basement.

“It’s nothing short of miraculous,” Gerald Gulezian said. “We had water pumps, generators, flashlights and batteries at the ready; we needed none of it.”

The Gulezians, like many other Brookview residents, have had their home flooded time and time again during storms.

But the only damage the Gulezians got from Sandy were some trash barrels strewn about.

In Derry, the waters of Beaver Lake remained calm.

Conservation Commission Chairman Margie Ives lives near the lake on Field Road. She said the lake and her home fared well.

“We had some limbs come down, nothing major,” she said. “We were lucky and so were my neighbors.”

Ives remembered last year’s October snowstorm.

“It was very different, let me tell you,” she said.

Derry Salvation Army officials were on standby throughout the storm, but had little to do.

“And that’s a good thing,” Salvation Army Lt. Chris Williams said.

Last year at this time, Williams said, he and his volunteers spent a lot of time going back and forth between regional shelters, providing food, drinks and emotional care to those impacted by the storm.

“Last year, it was a little bit crazy,” he said. “It was a lot easier this year; we didn’t even lose power.”

Williams said Salvation Army volunteers in this area may be called upon to go south and help in areas harder hit.

Londonderry residents Phil and Heather Cleobury didn’t think much of the storm. Phil Cleobury is originally from England, his wife from Canada.

“It was a bit over-hyped,” Phil Cleobury said.

The two lost power for a short time and were impressed with the response time by cleanup crews and line workers.

“Somebody had their act together,” he said. “It was well planned.”

Thomas credited utilities for giving people good information about the storm before it hit.

“They did a lot of (preliminary) work to let people know what to expect,” he said.

Having schools closed helped, too, he said.

“That kept a lot of traffic off the roads and away from hazard areas,” Thomas said.

In Londonderry, police Chief and acting Town Manager William Hart said the cleanup had been “slow, but steady.”

Sections of Auburn Road and Route 28 in town were the slowest to be reopened, Hart said.

Town officials and PSNH employees worked diligently to restore power to the town, he said, and calls to the police station were kept to a minimum.

“It’s difficult to prepare for a 1,000-year event,” Hart said.