New Hampshire

Lynch says repairs to done by weekend

By Norma Love
Associated Press / August 30, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. - Major road and utility repairs to damage resulting from Tropical Storm Irene are expected to be completed by Labor Day weekend, Governor John Lynch said yesterday.

Good weather is helping utility crews repair damage that left 175,000 homes and businesses without power at the peak of Sunday’s storm, Lynch said. By yesterday morning, the number of customers without power had been cut to 113,000 and was rapidly dropping.

Though Irene was a significant storm, the damage was not as bad as that from a devastating ice storm three years ago that left 600,000 customers without power, some for as long as two weeks, Public Utilities Commission chairman Tom Getz said yesterday. He said that lessons learned from that storm helped officials better prepare for Irene.

Lynch said two electric utilities, National Grid and Unitil, expected to restore power to most of their customers by last night. Public Service of New Hampshire, the state’s largest utility, and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative expect it could be a few days before the lights are on for everyone in their territories, he said.

Lynch said 200 local roads and 42 state roads were closed, with the worst damage to state routes in the North Country, including the Kancamagus Scenic Byway. He said the state roads will be repaired this week. A list of roads posted on the state’s website shows many are blocked by downed trees and power lines, but some are washed out.

Lynch said the state is concerned about the safety of one or more bridges in the north and will be inspecting them closely.

Besides working to reopen the state roads, the state will try to help communities with repairs, Lynch said. A Federal Emergency Management Agency representative also will be assessing the damage to determine who might qualify for federal assistance.

“My expectation is that everything will be taken care of [by] this weekend and we’ll be open for business, and we want the tourists to come to New Hampshire and enjoy themselves just like they’ve always been able to do,’’ Lynch said.

George Bald, commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, said officials had planned to reopen state parks today but moved up the opening for Hampton Beach State Park and Franconia Notch State Park to yesterday. All will be opened by tomorrow, he said.

While the beaches are being opened, swimming is banned for now, Lynch said.

The department is reaching out to all businesses, Bald said.

State officials urged residents to be cautious around damaged trees, fallen power lines, and rivers. They said flooding still could happen along the Connecticut River near Walpole and Hinsdale.