Gov. Sununu requests federal disaster declaration for five counties

By Barbara Tetreault

ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY — In a move sought by local communities, Gov. Chris Sununu last week requested President Donald Trump issue a major federal disaster declaration for the Oct. 29-30 storm and provide federal emergency assistance for five counties, including Coos County. The state’s congressional delegation has sent a letter to Trump supporting Sununu’s request.

Both Berlin and Gorham received significant damage from the storm and are hoping for the declaration to help with repair costs. Berlin has estimated it incurred $480,286 in damages and the state request puts Gorham’s damages at $436,500 or $153.27 per capita. Overall statewide damage associated with the storm is estimated at $6 million.

In his request, Sununu said over 270,000 electrical customers were out of power, some for as long as a week. Hundreds of miles of roadways and dozens of bridges and culverts were damaged due to the combination of heavy rainfall and severe winds. Conditions were most severe in Belknap, Carroll, Coos, Grafton and Sullivan Counties.

Sununu said a preliminary damage assessment by N.H. Homeland Security and Emergency Management found more than $1.89 million in eligible damages required for the declaration. The damage assessment chart included with the request shows Coos County received a total estimated public damage of $769,917. Gorham was listed as one of three communities that sustained the most eligible damage.

The recent storm brought high winds and heavy rain that intensified rapidly on the evening of Oct. 29 into Monday, Oct. 30. The highest rainfall amounts were recorded in the White Mountains area with Berlin receiving 5.23 inches of rain and Gorham 5.13 inches during a 10-hour period. Wind gusts ranged as high as 51 mph.

“As a result of this storm, the state of New Hampshire sustained widespread damages to state and local infrastructure, including property damage in all 10 counties,” said Sununu. “This storm considerably strained state and local resources; it consumed staff time and exhausted available resources due to county-wide flash flooding conditions, strong winds, widespread roadway destruction, historical power outages and significant debris that restricted travel and emergency operations. Fortunately, there were no deaths or serious injuries associated with this storm.”

The congressional delegation put the total damage statewide at $6 million.

“We urge you to grant a major disaster declaration for New Hampshire as soon as possible in order to ensure that our state and towns have access to the resources and assistance they need to fully recover from this emergency,” said the letter signed by U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter.

The city reported 14 streets plus the Bean Bridge area were damaged. Hardest hit was the Howland Street area where a major section of the street washed out.
Nine brooks and streams flooded storm collection systems, flowing into right-of-ways and leaving behind gravel and debris throughout the city. Community and Horne Fields had flood debris and there were trees down in Service Credit Union Heritage Park.

Roads in the Stony Brook development in Gorham received heavy damage and Route 2 between Gorham and Shelburne was closed for a time. Some other roads also received damage.

If granted, Sununu noted it would be the third federally declared disaster the state has experienced in the last seven months — following severe thunderstorms and heavy rains last July and a severe winter storm in March.