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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    National Guard MP's Nick Collishaw, left, and Alex Peck check a the welfare of residents on a list of homes with power out in Litchfield Wednesday, November 2, 2011.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    National Guard MP's Nick Collishaw, left, and Alex Peck check a the welfare of residents on a list of homes without power in Litchfield Wednesday, November 2, 2011.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Litchfield Fire Chief Thomas Schofield briefs the 237th Military Policy unit from the National Guard in Plymouth who went house to house in Litchfield Wednesday, November 2, 2011, checking on the welfare of residents and giving out information on the warming center at Campbell High School.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    National Guard members Alex Peck and Nick Collishaw check a the welfare of residents on a list of homes in Litchfield Wednesday, November 2, 2011.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

National Guard called in to help Litchfield; residents grateful but still waiting on power

LITCHFIELD – Spcs. Nick Collishaw and Alex Peck drove around Litchfield on Wednesday afternoon in a military Humvee and knocked on doors to check on the town’s many residents without power.

Those who answered were still frustrated and cold, but the pair of New Hampshire National Guardsmen tried to lift their spirits and left them with information about local warming centers and who to call for help.

“I try to crack jokes and make the best of things,” said Collishaw, of Hudson. “We’re just doing what we can do to let people know their options.”

Collishaw and Peck, of Connecticut, were among 12 members of the New Hampshire Guard called in Wednesday by the Litchfield Fire Department to help conduct health and welfare checks in town.

About 75 percent of residents were without power for the fourth straight day, after the weekend snowstorm dumped heavy snow on the region and brought down trees and power lines.

Several residents were tired of the situation, but they were also grateful for the warm midday weather this week.

“Thankfully, it’s not the middle of January like it was a few years ago,” said Linda Matz, who lives on Stevens Way and has been without power since Saturday. “It’s been cold but warm enough during the day that you can survive.”

Matz, 46, said her friends in Derry had their power restored Wednesday and lent her their generator, which will keep the house warm until power returns. She’s tried to stay optimistic and check for updates on her smartphone. With no school for her kids, she takes them out for meals at local restaurants and fast food spots.

“That’s been fun,” she said. “We’ve been trying to make it like an adventure. We go out whenever we can.”

Annette Dubois, 55, and her daughter, AmyMarie, 29, also were trying to “make the best” of the situation after their home on Stevens Way lost power Saturday.

“We’re lucky,” Annette Dubois said. “We still have a roof over our heads. It’s just one of those things in life you have to deal with.”

The family has a grill in the driveway and has been using it to cook chicken and steak for dinner. They’ve also made hot chocolate on the gas stove to stay warm at night.

AmyMarie Dubois said the sunny weather during the day allows her to go outside and read a book, while her 10-year-old son, Dylan, plays in the yard or with neighborhood friends.

The family said they were grateful for what the National Guardsmen were doing Wednesday to alert residents and check on them.

The 12 Guard members drove around town in six Humvees, which turned some heads in sleepy Litchfield.

Litchfield Fire Chief Tom Schofield made the decision to bring the group in, after his staff had grown fatigued trying to cover the whole town since Saturday’s storm.

The Litchfield Fire Department has 32 paid staff, but 30 are on-call firefighters with other full-time jobs. The limited personnel and scattered hours during the day has made it difficult for the department alone to conduct welfare checks.

“We decided it was a good approach at this point (to call in the National Guard),” he said. “We have to go into direct-contact mode now that it’s been several days.”

Litchfield has been using the school district alert system to send updates through the town, along with social media, but many families have no way to receive any of that information, Schofield said. With the welfare checks Wednesday, he sent the National Guard group out to certain people and addresses that often need town assistance or those that are older and should be checked on.

“We’re trying to target people that don’t have access to those things,” Schofield said. “We’re most worried about the ones we haven’t been able to get through to.”

He said town morale is “diminishing” as the days add up and many outages remain unfixed, but the cooperation and interaction at Campbell High School this week has been encouraging.

The school opened as a warming center Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 5-9 p.m. each day for people to warm up, shower, eat and charge electronic devices. About 70 showed up Monday night and another 140 came Tuesday, Schofield said.

Litchfield still has some “serious situations” with downed trees and power lines, Schofield said, but the efforts from the National Guard on Wednesday was a step forward to identify problems areas and ease tension with residents.

“We just want people to know we care,” Schofield said.

Public Service of New Hampshire estimated that 95 percent of Litchfield customers would have power back by midnight Thursday.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out Kittle (@Telegraph_CamK) on Twitter.