By Dustin Luca and Doug Ireland Staff writers
---- — Despite widespread power outages, damaged roofs and lost trees, most Southern New Hampshire residents were relieved Sandy didn’t leave a more devastating wake.
But, for some, there were some heart-stopping moments during the huge storm’s trip through the Granite State.
On Monday, one minute Brad Hughes of Atkinson was fielding a call from his neighbor. The next minute, his family was running from their home as a tree came down on top of it.
As the family cleared debris yesterday, Hughes said he felt “devastated, but lucky.”
His wife, Nancy Hughes, said she felt the same way.
“The house is fixable, rebuildable,” she said. “The kids are not.”
Still, thousands of residents remained in the dark last night, left powerless by a storm that slammed the East Coast.
At 5 p.m. yesterday, more than 130,000 homes remained without electricity, down from more than 210,000 at the peak. Most power was expected to be restored by Friday or Saturday. Most schools were closed.
While forecasts described Sandy as one of the worst storms to hit the region in 100 years, some towns came out of it with just trees coming down on town roads. The storm was blamed for one New Hampshire death after a man fell down an embankment in Lincoln.
President Barack Obama granted Gov. John Lynch’s request for federal assistance yesterday after Lynch declared a state of emergency early Monday afternoon. The approval makes federal resources available to support public safety efforts and protect property.
Among the hardest-hit communities in the area were Windham, Atkinson, Hampstead, Sandown and Danville, according to Public Service of New Hampshire spokesman Martin Murray. Other towns, including Derry and Londonderry, saw outages covering half the town or more.
Salem saw more than 7,300 homes and businesses without power, Fire Marshal Jeffrey Emanuelson said. Numerous homes and business received serious damage, including Rockingham Honda, Best Buy and Pep Boys, he said. North Salem was particularly hit hard.
Strong gusts knocked over a large facade at Rockingham Honda on North Broadway Monday, sending debris on top of eight sport utility vehicles and minivans outside the dealership.
Owner Emmett Horgan said there were no customers and employees were leaving when the facade, which runs the length of the building, came crashing down.
“Sheet metal you can replace,” Horgan said. “We were very fortunate.”
At Cole’s Mobile Home Village, a large maple tree crushed part of Brenda Paplaskas’ home and punctured the oil tank at 13 Fern Road. It missed — by 2 inches — hitting 84-year-old Winifred Jarosky’s home next door.
“If you could have heard it when it came down,” Jarosky said. “It scared the hell out of me.”
A crew from Enpro came to pump oil from the leaking tank into several large steel drums. Very little oil spilled on the ground, an Enpro employee said.
Another large tree fell in Jarosky’s back yard. A large tree fell that during the 2008 ice storm struck Jarosky’s home, knocking off seven large panels, she said.
An enormous evergreen came crashing down at 45 Millville St., damaging the roof and cracking the walls.
Jovin Ciarletta and his fiancee, Jillian Camasso, both 30, were playing a board game when they suddenly heard a loud noise.
“I heard the tree cracking and I grabbed her and ran into the bathroom,” Ciarletta said. “I heard it hit the front corner and slide to the ground. It could have been worse.”
The tree also blocked part of Asbury Street — one of about a half dozen roads that remained closed late yesterday afternoon, Emanuelson said.
Salem Town Hall, Salem High School and Woodbury Middle School remained without power late yesterday afternoon, along with Northeast Rehabilitation and Greystone and Salemhaven nursing homes, Emanuelson said. The Salem Boys & Girls Club was dark and closed yesterday.
The Ingram Senior Center was open to anyone who needed a break or to charge cellphones or other electrical devices, Emanuelson said.
Stores see long lines
Stormy-weary residents stopped off at convenience stores and doughnut shops yesterday morning to warm up or get gas for cars or generators.
Steady lines of customers could be seen at gas pumps throughout the area, including Hess Express in Salem.
Ken Wright, 67, of Derry, who was filling up a gas can, said he had to travel to Salem because the stores near his Goodhue Road home were closed because they didn’t have power.
Don Murphy, 45, of Windham was filling his own 5-gallon gas cans nearby.
“Who knows how long it will be out?” he said. “We’re always hit in Windham.”
A crew from Xfinity also stopped at the store. Worker Ken Curtis, 45, of Salem said he and a fellow employee were busy restoring service in Salem before heading to Sandown, Hampstead and Plaistow.
Officials in some of the area’s smaller towns were just glad they were spared major damage. But, they still had hundreds of residents without power.
Around 75 percent of Atkinson was without power yesterday. While the police station was running on a generator, even that failed briefly. While the station was offline from about 4 to 9 p.m. Monday, all calls were sent to and answered by Plaistow police.
About 85 percent of Hampstead was still in the dark yesterday, but police Chief Joseph Beaudoin said life was returning to normal.
“We’ve got a great group of residents who really take care of each other,” he said. “Right now, they’re out. They’re doing well. They’re locating gas, they’re locating food in the restaurants that are open.”
Plaistow saw a much lower percentage of residents in the dark a day after the storm.
“We have close to 700 residents without power,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said.
Crews worked to remove downed trees as they were called in, Fitzgerald said. It kept roads passable throughout the storm, he said, but things could have been much worse.
“We have to be very thankful that the storm just didn’t materialize as we all feared,” he said. “We always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and I think this storm helps people stay prepared.”
Pelham Selectmen’s Chairman William McDevitt said the town was spared flooding that often troubles the town during storms. Utilities were telling the town most would have power restored by tonight, Selectman Ed Gleason said, following a public safety briefing.
But Bush Hill Road looked a mess. Resident Cindi Maiocchi said she was unable to reach her home from either end of the road Monday because of downed wires and trees. A utility worker finally cut a path for her to reach her driveway.
But Maiocchi had issues on the homefront. Trees fell on her house and in the yard. The insurance company was going to pay only for the one that slammed into the home.
“Water has come in the living room and two bathrooms,” Maiocchi said.
Still, she was relieved she wasn’t home when the tree hit.
“I probably would have had a heart attack,” she said.
Staff writer John Toole contributed to this report.