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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Naticook Road resident Charlie Metz surveys the mess Monday, October 31, 2011, following a storm that dumped heavy wet snow over the weekend, downing trees and knocking out power to much of southern New Hampshire. A utility pole also snapped further down Naticook Road making the section impassible.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    A transformer and power lines are strewn across Alice Drive Monday, October 31, 2011, following a storm that dumped heavy wet snow over the weekend, downing trees and knocking out power to much of southern New Hampshire.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Brook Arthur, right, looks on as her children, from left, James, 2, Maia, 4, and Kail, 8, take a sled ride with their grandmother, Sharon Heine Monday, October 31, 2011, in Hollis following a storm that dumped heavy wet snow over the weekend, downing trees and knocking out power to much of southern New Hampshire.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    With cars waiting in line for fuel at the Amherst Street 7-11, Steve Dickson of Nashua fills his gas cans for a new generator he just purchased Monday, October 31, 2011, following a storm that dumped heavy wet snow over the weekend, downing trees knocking out power to much of southern New Hampshire. Several gas stations in Nashua closed, sending patrons scrambling for generator fuel.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Halloween decorations are buried in the snowbank Monday, October 31, 2011, outside the Hollis Primary School following a storm that dumped heavy wet snow over the weekend, downing trees and knocking out power to much of southern New Hampshire.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Foliage blooms along Ridge Road in Hollis Monday, October 31, 2011, following a storm that dumped heavy wet snow over the weekend, downing trees and knocking out power to much of southern New Hampshire.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Naticook Road resident Charlie Metz surveys the mess Monday, October 31, 2011, following a storm that dumped heavy wet snow over the weekend, downing trees and knocking out power to much of southern New Hampshire. A utility pole also snapped further down Naticook Road making the section impassible.


Friday, December 30, 2011

2. Unprecedented ‘Snowtober’ storm knocks out power to 95 percent of Nashua customers

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Telegraph will be wrapping up its review of the 10 biggest local stories of 2011 in Saturday’s paper.

Timing is everything in weather as in life, which is why the Halloween Snowstorm will remain memorable long after other gigantic snowstorms have come and gone.

The snow that started falling on the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 29, would have been notable but not astonishing if it had happened during January or February. In October, however, it was unprecedented.

The Halloween Snowstorm, a.k.a. “Snowtober,” didn’t break records for the month; it destroyed them, just as it destroyed hundreds of thousands of trees from New Jersey to Maine, producing power outages for more than a million people.

Hudson meteorologist Doug Webster, who writes a monthly weather column for the Telegraph, says formal records dating back 127 years show no October storm ever leaving more than about an inch of snow in Nashua.

The 2011 storm deposited at least 10 inches in the city and up to 2 feet in nearby towns – breaking previous snowfall records for October by a factor of 10 or more.

Webster’s search through informal records dating back to Colonial times could find no mention of any such snowstorm that early in the year.

The snow produced much more damage than similar winter storms because September and October had been unusually warm – it had been 80 degrees, a record, barely a week earlier – so most trees still had their leaves.

Snow clung to those leaves, greatly increasing the weight on branches. The Granite Geek column estimated that a full-grown oak could easily have held 3,000 pounds of snow in its crown.

Trees, branches and limbs came tumbling down, bringing utility poles and power lines with them.

PSNH says 237,000 customers around the state were without power Sunday, Oct. 30 – the third-highest such total in memory, topped only by the December 2008 ice storm and February 2010 windstorm. At one point, 95 percent of customers in Nashua had no electricity.

Schools, government offices and businesses shut down – even trick-or-treat was delayed. Storm cleanup filled the front page of The Telegraph for a week.

Months later, the matter was still being discussed. PSNH was raked over the coals by legislators and regulators for its reaction to the storm. It was not alone: Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey all started official government investigations into utility preparedness and reaction.

One possible widespread result is a change in laws making it easier for utilities to trim or cut back trees along power lines.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com.