T’was Two Weeks Before Christmas

T’was two weeks before Christmas, when all through our town,

Not a light bulb was shining, TVs made no sound.

Generators were humming in garages with care,

With the hope that Public Service would soon bring warm air.

Each family stayed nestled as snug as they could,

While worries of freezing concerned all, as it should.

Papa in his long-johns, Mama in her hat,

Huddled together with the dog in their lap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter!

We sprang from our warmth to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

To peak from behind blankets I had hung on the sash.

The rain on the branches of ice covered trees,

Came crashing around us, as we fell to our knees.

When, what to my frightened eyes should appear,

But a mighty tall oak, I had always held dear.

With a crack, swish and thud, trees flew coldly aloof,

I knew that the next one might come through the roof.

More rapid than eagles the linemen they came.

And we cheered them and thanked them and called them by name: 

From Connecticut!  From Michigan!  From Canada!  and Ohio!

From D.C.!  and New Hampshire!  all bringing such brio!

To the top of the poles!  To the treacherous line!

Take good care!  And be safe!  You are brave and so kind!

As the wind ceased its howling and no ice fell anew,

The worst ice storm in history with relief for so few.

No power or water or everyday fare,

We shared anxious moments but did not despair.

In spite of no lighting, life’s kindness shone through,

With neighbor helping neighbor, building friendships anew.

Long lines for hot coffee, “D” batteries and gas,

Brought warm smiles and comfort which helped the time pass.

As the circuits repaired and we warmed up our homes,

I am sure our storm stories could fill many tomes.

Let us never forget one strong common theme,

The compassion of strangers and the work of a team.

The linemen who helped us from home and afar,

Along with their skill brought hope, bright as a star.

As they spring to their trucks, to their teams give a whistle!

As away they all fly, like the down of a thistle,

They should hear us exclaim, ere they drive out of sight,

“Many thanks to you all, and to all a good night!”

This home and the homeowner’s vehicle took a hard hit when a 100-year-old oak tree gave way during the ice storm.

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Whatta Mess!

by Andrea Dannewitz

As the rain moved in last Thursday drenching the northeast, the rapidly dropping temperature outside turned this rain into a devastating ice storm leaving Salem and the entire state of New Hampshire in a state of emergency.  During the overnight hours of Thursday into early Friday morning, every Salem resident will say the same thing.  The frightening sounds of electrical transformers exploding, trees falling, and branches breaking left the area looking more like a winter tornado had hit the region.  The daylight hours of last Friday morning revealed what we had all feared, widespread property damage and complete devastation.

As of 8 a.m. on Friday, Captain Shawn Patten of Salem Police Department said the police had responded to over 60 reports of wires down and over 50 reports of trees down obstructing roadways throughout town.  Police officers moved aside the branches that they could, notified Department of Public Works and National Grid of areas in need of attention (which was everywhere) and helped create a ‘to do’ list for the other agencies.

Police officers in Salem worked tirelessly in conjunction with Salem Fire Department and DPW closing roads, checking on residents and also responding to normal calls for service.

National Grid and Public Service Company of New Hampshire reported 400,000 residents without power in the initial hours of the disaster.  Crews from as far away as Tennessee and Ohio responded to New Hampshire to assist them with rebuilding the power grids from the ground up and in dangerous conditions.

Emergency crews were on foot traveling from neighborhood to neighborhood in the winter war zone communicating to residents with loudspeakers where to seek emergency shelter and advising residents not to wait for electricity to return, as it could be a substantial amount of time before that happened.  Firefighters checked out generators residents had running, educating them how to properly use them and also informing residents of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it from happening.  Firefighters handed out literature about how to properly use alternative heating sources and also helped evacuate residents and shut down their utilities.  Salem Fire Chief Kevin Breen, the town’s Emergency Operation Center Director, strongly cautioned residents to use their generators and alternative heat sources with extreme care because of the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Breen reported that there were several carbon monoxide poisoning incidents in town due to improperly ventilated generators, or generators that were operating in closed-in spaces such as basements and garages.  Several structure fires were also reported.  Everything from woodstove problems to chimney fires and also trouble with portable heaters.  There were also many tree fires caused by arching wires and also exploding transformers setting utility poles on fire.

Assistant Fire Chief Paul Parisi assumed the role of Salem’s Fire Chief while Chief Kevin Breen’s role of Emergency Operations Director was activated once he declared a state of emergency in the town of Salem.  Chief Parisi spoke at Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting and reported to the board that on average the department handles a little over a dozen calls a day.  During the first 96 hours of the state of emergency, Salem Fire Department responded to 265 calls for service, an average of 60 per day.  He detailed for the board the department’s process of notifying residents of what to do when it became clear that the reverse 911 calls issued by the fire department were not working as many were without phone service.  He explained the canvassing of neighborhoods and their door-to-door effort of assisting residents out of their homes and educating them of the common dangers present during an emergency such as this nasty ice storm.  He also talked of the six message boards police and fire officials displayed throughout town providing residents with the Emergency Operations Center phone number to obtain info on emergency shelter.  He also pointed out several reminders for residents for times such as this state of emergency we just endured:

  • Remember to keep battery powered smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. 
  • When the power goes out wired in alarms no longer will operate without electricity.
  • Chimneys that are not normally used may be blocked and pose both a fire hazard and a carbon monoxide poisoning risk. 
  • If you plan to use these heat sources during power outages keep them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Use candles with care or better yet use flashlights instead. 
  • If candles are used, keep them out of reach of children and pets to prevent fire dangers.  Also do not leave candles burning unattended.
  • Remember that carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless.  It is a silent killer. 
  • Keep gas powered generators at least 10 feet from your home, outdoors and not obstructed on any sides.  Generators housed and operated in basements, garages, or to close to your home will in fact result in carbon monoxide poisoning.  Also remember to shut the power main off if the generator is hardwired to your home.  When the power goes back on the generator will explode.
  • Keep your home properly ventilated when using portable propane heaters and be sure they are approved for indoor use.
  • Do not use your gas range stove or oven for heat as deadly carbon monoxide levels can rise quickly.

Last Saturday, when it became very clear to public safety officials that the electricity was not going to be able to be fixed right away, Salem High School was turned into an emergency shelter for residents. American Red Cross also responded, providing emergency cots and meals for those staying at Salem High School.  Fifty percent of the town was still without power, becoming a real cause for concern.  The Mall at Rockingham Park also hosted warming stations for those looking to get out of the cold for a while.

Department of Public Works (DPW) director, Rick Russell also addressed the Board of Selectmen on Monday evening.  He stated that while the town remains in a state of emergency only essential operations would remain ongoing as they continue to clear roads and debris and assist power companies in locating the trouble spots (all over town).  As of Monday, the roads have been cleared and debris was being picked up, but he kindly asked residents who may not know that if branches and trees fell on their properties, the town can not pick up that debris as FEMA does not reimburse for that.  He informed residents that the transfer station would remain open until 7 p.m. throughout the emergency and for those that have tree limbs larger than 4-inches in diameter to contact LL&S Wood Processing Plant on Lowell Road to bring large brush there for a fee.

Rick Russell also wanted to make sure that the people who really gave it their all received a thank you as many of these employees at DPW ditched their normal job roles and just did whatever needed to be done and also worked in conjunction with the highway, and utility departments who also did the same.  Many of these people had trees on their own homes and property damage but put that aside to help get Salem back to normal again.  He also had a big thank you to all Salem residents for supplying DPW with the best tools they could to help them get the job done.

Fire Chief Kevin Breen addressed the Board of Selectmen also stating that they are not done yet.  At that time they were still just 96 hours into the state of emergency and he said there would be a state of emergency until power is completely restored and every resident is safe again in their homes with their utilities turned back on.

Unfortunately so many people did not see this disaster coming our way.  This left many people very unprepared.  A power outage is an inconvenience but when the power goes out for days and the temperatures continue to drop, many did not know what to do. 

The New Hampshire Department of Safety’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management suggests that residents keep a safe alternative heating source in their homes and to maintain such heat sources as woodstoves and fireplaces so they are ready to use in an emergency.  For those who invest in a generator be sure to have a licensed electrician install it and show you how to operate it properly, answering any of your questions that you may have.  Also, never operate it too close to your home or inside your home.  Emergency supplies to have on hand should include flashlights, batteries, camping lanterns, a battery powered radio and fuel for a generator if you own one.  Keep a standard landline phone on hand in case the power goes out so you have phone service.  Keep several extra gallons of water, non-perishable foods, such as canned goods, and a manual can opener on hand.  Be sure to have enough food and water for everyone in the household for a week.

FEMA also had different suggestions.  In our area those who own battery powered National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) weather radio receivers can receive continuous broadcasts of weather information on the device, keeping you in the loop of dangerous weather conditions when the power is out.  FEMA also suggests keeping cash on hand rather than checks or debit cards, which can be useless in a power outage or disaster.  They also suggest keeping a first aid kit, sanitation and hygiene items, medication, extra clothing and blankets on hand. 

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Pets Left Without Power Seek Shelter at SARL

by Andrea Dannewitz

Bruce Fischer pets his dogs before leaving to evacuate to warm shelter.

In every disaster, like the ice storm that left residents within our area in the dark and out in the cold, there are always people who need to evacuate their homes but will not because they refuse to leave their pets behind.  It is a sad reality that emergency shelters do not accept pets.  Also, hotels that are not pet friendly do not change the rules when disaster strikes.

Salem Animal Rescue League (SARL) has a program called Safe Home Safe Pet, which was originally developed to house pets owned by victims of domestic violence that left an unsafe living situation and were in the process of finding permanent homes for themselves and their pets.  Earlier this year, Safe Home Safe Pet was expanded to include pets belonging to families who became victims of the foreclosure crisis and now has been used to include pets needing shelter from the ice storm.  People who have been forced to leave their homes and could not take pets with them began to call SARL management as early as Friday morning seeking a safe place to house their pet while temporarily being out of their homes.

As of Tuesday evening, the shelter still had 12 of 15 pets brought in due to the massive power outage caused by the ice storm.  Also on Tuesday, the shelter was still receiving numerous calls from citizens throughout the surrounding areas seeking a place to bring their pets because they were still without power.

Ray Denis, director of development for SARL, called the rescue league, “the little shelter that could,” noting SARL’s unique ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our community, even during a state of emergency.  They have spent the last 16 years doing whatever they can, whenever they can to serve our community.

The Safe Home Safe Pet program is used on a case-to-case basis and for a limited amount of time agreed upon between the shelter management and the pet owner, as each unique situation varies from the next.  For more information about the Safe Home Safe Pet program contact SARL management at 890-2166.

Preparing Pets for Disasters:

  • Prepare evacuation plans in advance.  Know where you can leave your pet safely if you cannot take your pet with you.
  • Have a gallon of water per day per pet on hand.  Also have enough food for each pet for one week.
  • Create a buddy system with neighbors.  If you need to evacuate and neighbors do not, or vice-versa, make plans to care for each others pets and watch each other’s property.
  • During a power outage keep candles out of reach of your pets, or use flashlights instead.
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Santa at Boys and Girls Club

Chloe Cowin visits with Santa

Santa and Ryan Trainor enjoy a chuckle

Max Shanteler accepts a candy care.

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