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NH coastal towns assess damage following weekend storm, flooding

This story was updated at 7 p.m., Jan. 14.

Town and state officials are assessing damage to New Hampshire’s coastal towns after a storm that began on Friday night brought high winds, evacuations, and extensive flooding.

Emergency responders in Hampton Beach rescued 20 people from their homes due to flooding during high tide on Saturday. Officials in multiple coastal towns said they received reports of home, vehicle, and road damage in the area. The U.S. Coast Guard boathouse and lighthouse platform in New Castle also sustained damage.

As of Sunday evening, most roads that had been flooded were open again, though officials in Rye say that parts of Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A) will likely remain closed until Wednesday.

The flooding flattened sea walls in Rye that separated Ocean Boulevard from the beach. Water remains ankle deep on the road even at low tide, says Rye police chief Kevin Walsh.

Hampton police Chief Alex Reno says the town is still waiting to assess the damage with the help of a drone on Monday, but many people were affected.

“A lot of people lost a lot of stuff,” he said

No serious injuries have been reported.

Flooding along the coast was caused by an extremely high tide, high winds, and in some areas, the addition of heavy rainfall.

Rye Fire Chief Mark Cotreau says much of their infrastructure had already sustained damage during Wednesday’s storm.

“Even with all the temporary repairs that were done - and there was plenty of it - it’s still a weakened system,” he said. “This was a strong tide, and that’s what we were up against.”

The storm brought significant damage to Maine coastal towns as well, with Portland recording a record high tide, wind gusts up to 60 mph, and flooding in the downtown area.

While there were a variety of factors at play in Saturday’s flooding, the latest national climate assessment indicates that, in general, intense rain and snow events are increasing throughout the country, and in the Northeast in particular, as humans continue to burn atmosphere-warming fossil fuels.

Extreme precipitation events have increased by about 60% in the Northeast since the 1950s, according to the assessment. And as the climate warms, more snow is expected to fall instead as rain.

Vanessa Palange, the community outreach coordinator for the New Hampshire Department of Safety, said that towns across the state saw power outages on Saturday and road damage due to snow, rain, and strong winds.

Residents whose property was damaged during the storm are encouraged to report it to the state by calling 2-1-1. Updates on road closures can be found at New England 511 and town police and fire departments social media pages.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.