The Snowstorms of 2015

Return to Table of Contents

Juno Aftermath: Hampton Digs Out

By Max Sullivan

Hampton Union, January 30, 2015

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

 HAMPTON - Hampton-area residents shoveled out of Winter Storm Juno's 31 inches Wednesday only to begin preparation for even more snow that is expected for this coming weekend.

Tuesday’s storm was the first of an expected succession of snow falls this winter. Hampton will likely be hit with one to three inches of snow on Friday, according to

Though the snow piled high this week, residents considered themselves “lucky” to not experience power outages.

Tim Rowe, a lead lineman for Unitil, said no outages were reported in Hampton or any of the surrounding towns.

Rowe said he was supposed to go into work at 8 p.m. Tuesday night to watch out for outages. He got a call at 2 p.m. that afternoon to tell him don’t bother.

The reason there were no outages, he said, was because the snow was lighter than usual.

"That’s why we lucked out," Rowe said as he shoveled out Guinea Switching Substation with four co-workers on Timber Swamp Road. "If the snow was heavier, we would have had tons of outages. So yeah, we lucked out."

Other than a few minor “fender benders,” including one on Esker Road that involved a police cruiser and a private plow truck, Deputy Police Chief David Hobbs said there were no notable accidents during the storm. This, he said, was because people seemed to listen to the state’s warning to stay inside during the blizzard.

“(Juno) went as well as we would hope,” Hobbs said. “I think the state did a great job in terms of asking people to stay off the road, which helped us out immensely, for emergency vehicles and snow removal.”

High Street was the only road closed in Hampton due to flooding, said Acting Fire Chief Jameson Ayotte, and it was reopened after the water receded. Ocean Boulevard was also closed in North Hampton from Atlantic Avenue to the Rye town line due to splash over.

Hampton Fire Capt. John Stevens said that the splash over at the North Beach seawall during high tide was relatively manageable.

Community restaurants had their doors open during the storm. Wally's, the Galley Hatch and the 401 Tavern all gave out free coffee and food to first responders and those who needed it.

Twenty-eight people worked overtime for the Hampton Department of Public Works to make sure the roads were clear, while the fire and police departments were all extra-staffed.

John Tinios, owner of the Galley Hatch, slept in his office Monday night so he could open the Galley Hatch doors Tuesday. He said they served 60 to 70 people free meals. Breakfast was on the house to everyone who entered.

"Hampton’s given a lot to us and we’d like to reciprocate," Tinios said. "We've got a great town. It’s a real community."

Rick Middleton, former Boston Bruins captain who lives in Hampton, said the blizzard was easy going compared to what Seacoast residents normally deal with when the "blizzard" tag is applied to a storm.

He and his family just relaxed Tuesday, only to find that the light, fluffy snow made for little trouble. They were shoveled out before noon Wednesday.

"We just hunkered down yesterday," Middleton said Wednesday. "Being a coastal storm, I thought it would be a lot worse. We're pretty lucky."

Middleton compared Monday and Tuesday to the Blizzard of 1978, during which he lived in Lynnfield, Mass., as a player for the Bruins. He said Tuesday was nothing compared to that storm, during which he and a few friends were snowed in for four days before he left New England for a game in Detroit via Manchester Airport.

Hampton Beach resident Liana Wilson, 28, said she and her husband attempted to shovel Tuesday but quickly gave up due to snow blowing back on their property.

"By seven o'clock it looked like we had done nothing." Wilson said. "It was pointless."

Shoveling was tough on inland Hampton residents as well. Jack Demeritt, 67, said he took 20 hours at least to finish shoveling and plowing his driveway on Exeter Road.

Hampton Town Manager Fred Welch, who lives on Walton Road in Seabrook, described himself as "not a spring chicken" at 72 and said shoveling and snow blowing was tougher than he expected.

"That’s a lot of snow," Welch said. "I discovered a few muscles that are bothering me today that I didn't know I had."

Snow costs piling up for area towns

By Max Sullivan

Hampton Union, February 6, 2015

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON- January’s snow storms have forced Hampton-area public works to overspend, department heads say, creating concern over how towns are going to afford the rest of the year’s snow removal.

Hampton Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Keith Noyes said he’s spent $149,114 of his snow budget in recent weeks, which would leave $11,451 for the rest of the year if the default budget was passed in March and $33,886 if the operating budget passes.

“We’re just at the beginning of February and we’re at 80 percent of our default,” Noyes said.

Noyes, who has worked in public works for 30 years, said this type of shortage hasn’t happened to his department since 1987, he estimated, when he was working for the Exeter DPW.

“This isn’t common,” Noyes said. “This has only happened like three times in my career at this point in the budget cycle.”

More snow is on the way, according to The site predicts snowfall Saturday through Tuesday, some days possibly bringing 3 inches of snow.

Those predictions are keeping Noyes wondering how quickly the money will be spent this winter. It seems the snow keeps coming.

But it’s not just this current winter that Noyes is worried about. The budget is supposed to get the town through November and December as well, he said, let alone a surprise snow storm in October.

Noyes said the budget for contracted help was hit the most, and that it is in the red for both budgets on the ballot. The department needs contractors.

Noyes said he also spent $6,000 of the contracting expenses on snow removal at the beach on Thursday alone, clearing streets that residents have complained are too narrow for comfortable passage by cars. He estimated 2 feet of snow piled up on the sides of the roads there.

No matter how low the money gets, Noyes said he won’t let snow removal suffer. That’s a priority, he said.

“I consider it an essential emergency service,” Noyes said. “I don’t base my decision making on cost. I don’t not consider it, but I don’t withhold plows or sanding the roads because of the budget because it is a safety issue of the town. This would not be the area in the budget that I would turn back on.”

But Noyes said he does expect sacrifices to be made in sidewalk, drainage and sewer maintenance, all of which have been mentioned in town meetings this year as concerns for the town.

North Hampton and Hampton Falls also both expressed concern for their snow budgets.

North Hampton Town Administrator Paul Apple said that the town is “nervous” about the amount of money it has spent in just a week. It spent $18,740 on Juno alone, and 20 to 25 percent of the snow budget in just eight days.

“That’s a lot,” Apple said. ”That’s a burn rate that no one would be comfortable with.”

Hampton Falls Town Administrator Lori Ruest said the town spent $151,640 as of Wednesday, which is 81 percent of the 2015 budget.

“Too much,” said Ruest, when asked how much money. “So we’ve overspent our budget.”

Seabrook’s DPW is still calculating the cost of last week’s snow removal, but Office Supervisor Lynn Willwerth said that the department has estimated spending $100,000 this year so far in contractors, salt, sand and overtime. Willwerth said the total DPW budget is roughly $3 million, so they aren’t concerned about being able to afford the snow removal, but she said they are still spending a lot of money for only a few weeks of snowfall.

“We are spending a lot of money, but I mean, what else can we do?” Willwerth said. “We’ve got to keep the roads clear. We have to keep the town safe for residents.”

John Starkey, head of public works in Seabrook, said he was confident that New England will get some luck in the near future when it comes to the snow fall.

“I feel a dandelion trying to come up through the snow,” Starkey said. “If winter comes, can spring be far behind? I hope not.”


Keep calm, stay safe and carry on

an editorial

Hampton Union, February 9, 2015

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Facebook lit up Sunday night as parents posted photos of their ecstatic children cheering as they heard the news that heavy snow and unsafe roads had caused school districts to cancel classes yet again.

Our guess is that if their parents posted “selfies,” they probably wouldn’t have looked quite so happy.

Although, Stratham Town Administrator Paul Deschaine is taking the storm in stride: "It's kind of like the movie 'Groundhog Day.' Over and over again. But what can you do? We rest up our plow guys when we can and then get back out there."

Unfortunately, the seemingly endless snowfall, which began with Winter Storm Juno on Jan. 27 with accumulations in the 30-inch range, shows no signs of stopping.

While accumulations vary from town to town, it’s safe to say that between the Feb. 2 storm that dumped more than a foot of snow and the storm on Sunday and Monday, cumulative snowfall across the region is averaging in excess of 60 inches and meteorologists assure us plenty more is on the way, with the next storm expected Thursday.

The fun and novelty of massive snowfall has begun to give way to exhaustion.

Plow drivers are exhausted because they have not stopped for two weeks and the conditions they are driving in are extremely difficult, with the wind and snow often creating near white-out conditions.

"I'm exhausted," said Seabrook Highway Foreman Bruce Felch. "This is (two) weeks in a row that we've been dealing with snow. We're getting exhausted."

Even before this latest storm, Portsmouth DPW director Peter Rice said of his workers, “Actually, they are exhausted. We pace them as best we can.” He noted that not only do these workers need to clear all the roadways, but they, like us, have their own homes and families to take care of.

When the snow lets up for a minute, public works crews keep at it, trying to remove the accumulated snow from the streets and digging out fire hydrants. Police and firefighters have been going non-stop responding to car accidents (mercifully most of a minor nature).

Municipal snow removal budgets are nearly spent in communities across New Hampshire’s Seacoast and Southern York County and taxpayers can expect public works departments to seek additional funds in the coming weeks.

Homeowners are exhausted from shoveling and snow-blowing their walks and driveways one more time, digging their cars out of snowbanks, raking snow off roofs and keeping their vehicles filled with blue windshield wiper fluid.

The one silver lining (knock on wood) has been the health of the power grid, which has held up incredibly well under winter’s onslaught and most of us have managed to keep our electricity, heat and water despite the storms.

As the snow piles up, we urge neighbors to look out for one another. If you have a neighbor who is elderly or infirm, please stop in to see how they are doing. Also, Jameson Ayotte, Hampton's acting fire chief, reminds residents to keep all heating vents clear of snow, to prevent toxic carbon monixide from seeping back into your home.

As the snow continues to fall, we urge our readers to keep calm, stay warm and carry on.

Whiteout conditions lead to Route 1A bridge closure

By Max Sullivan

Hampton Union, February 17, 2015

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON- Snow drifts are no big deal with 2 or 3 inches of snow on the ground, said Hampton Public Works Director Keith Noyes.

But right now there is an average of 2 1/2 feet of fluffy snow piled up at Hampton Beach, Noyes estimated, making for dangerous conditions at the beach Sunday and Monday.

The Neil R. Underwood Memorial Bridge that connects Hampton and Seabrook beaches on Route 1A was closed from Sunday at 5:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday as crews worked day and night through what Deputy Police Chief David Hobbs called “whiteout conditions,” well after the snow had stopped falling from the sky. Snow drifts as high as 3-5 feet moved through the lettered streets and on Ocean Boulevard, Hobbs said, leading to accidents and stuck cars.

Hobbs said barricades were put up on Ashworth Avenue at Dustin Avenue and on Ocean Boulevard at Church Street and Winnacunnet Road. Side streets behind Ashworth Avenue were “impassable” because of the snow drifts, he said, and several cars were stuck all through the night in positions that were difficult for tow trucks and plows to get them out. Rocky Bend, the first bend north of the main Hampton Beach strip, was particularly difficult to maintain, he said.

Hobbs said he arrived at the beach at 6 a.m. Monday and visibility was still virtually non-existent.

Noyes said the snow has been “frustrating,” as it’s difficult to keep up with the moving piles of snow in the roads. Those piles kept some residents from leaving their homes, he said, as they reappeared shortly after workers had cleared the roads in front of their houses.

“What’s been creating a huge problem for us is the wind drifting at Hampton Beach,” Noyes said. “It’s blowing the snow all over the place, and we know the sooner we get one area cleared up, a half hour and hour later it’s back.”

Noyes estimated the weekend’s overtime and contracting costs will amount to $35,000 to $40,000, putting the town further into the red in the snow removal accounts. Noyes said there were 25 to 30 Department of Public Works (DPW) workers and three contracting groups working this weekend.

Noyes said he’s gotten word from Town Manager Fred Welch that a plan is in the works to replace the funds in the snow removal account, but that he and Deputy Public Works Director Chris Jacobs were too busy Monday orchestrating the snow removal to look at such a plan.

The Old Salt, 401 Tavern, Wilbur’s Family Dining and Hoaty’s all contributed free meals to the plowmen working Sunday night.

Noyes said this weekend’s snow fall only adds to the overwhelming inches of snow that the DPW is trying to remove. He said finding a home for it all will not be easy.

“It’s fair to say that we’ll be removing snow, even if we have no more snow, from Hampton Beach and some of the other areas around town for next two to three weeks,” he said.

But Hampton will have more snow, according to, which says snow fall is expected Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Return to Table of Contents