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As another winter storm heads toward New Hampshire, utilities prepare for possible outages

Allegra Boverman

New Hampshire is gearing up for another winter storm, this time with a mix of rain, sleet, and snow expected. The state’s utilities are preparing for possible power outages, and outdoor COVID-19 testing sites may be closed for inclement weather.

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The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings for much of New Hampshire, with up to 18 inches of snow expected in northern parts of the state. Central and Southern New Hampshire could see snow piling up between 3 and 10 inches, and sleet accumulations of up to an inch and a half.

Liberty spokesperson Emily Burnett said, given the consistency and amount of snow expected, 2,100 to 4,200 residents could potentially lose power in that utility’s service area.

Seth Wheeler, a representative from the New Hampshire Electric Co-op, said unlike last week’s nor’easter, this storm might bring wetter conditions that could be challenging for power lines. He said one concern is ice, which can accumulate and become heavy enough to cause poles to snap.

“It can add up to about 500 pounds to a power line for a half-inch of ice, and it takes half of that to cause outages on a system,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the Co-op is watching out for ice accumulation, but for now, it looks like it should be just below the danger zone.

Granite Staters can prepare for the storm by storing water, having safe sources of light and heat, and charging mobile devices ahead of time, Wheeler said.

Alec O’Meara with Unitil said the wet snow New Hampshire may see could lead to problems.

“Wet, sticky snow has a tendency to really latch on to tree limbs and can really kind of overload them and weigh them down, which can have an impact on electric infrastructure,” he said.

But there’s good news, O’Meara said. He’s expecting a quick drop in temperatures, which could mean only a couple of inches of wet snow before it turns to dry snow.

Falling trees and motor vehicle accidents could be leading causes of power outages, utilities said. Each utility is preparing for possible outages by readying repair crews.

With the storm intersecting with commuting times, state leaders are cautioning drivers to avoid travel or be cautious on the roads.

“We ask that anyone who can defer travel until after the storm to please do so,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Victoria Sheehan said in a statement. “For those who must travel, please check travel conditions for your route and drive for conditions, allowing yourself plenty of time to reach your destination and ample space between your car and others.”

Outdoor COVID-19 testing centers run by the state may be closed in the coming days due to inclement weather. Seven outdoor test sites will be open or closed in accordance with area school districts on weekdays, the state announced. If a local school district cancels school due to the weather, the nearby testing site will also close for the day.

The potential closures will apply to the testing sites in Belmont, Claremont, Keene, Lincoln, Manchester, Nashua and Newington.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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