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A December to remember

The ice storm that devastated the Monadnock region struck ten years ago today

  • Tim Steele, left, and his son, Eric, of Hancock fill up at Carr’s gas station in Dublin on the Saturday following the Dec. 11, 2008, ice storm. Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • Driving around the region was still interesting as demonstrated by this truck passing under a fallen tree on Forrest Road in Hancock. Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • An orchard on Norway Hill in Hancock shines in the sunlight after the 2008 ice storm. Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • The view of the Peterborough Town House from 20 Grove Street following the 2008 ice storm.  Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • Angela Elliott of Keene holds her baby, Alida Brissette, 10 months, at the shelter at South Meadow School on Saturday. Beside Elliott is her cousin, Meghan Gagnon, 7, of Bennington. Shelter volunteer Peggy Dorson, right, of Peterborough offers to hold Alida. Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE


Tuesday, December 11, 2018 5:21PM

It was both beautiful and destructive. The December 2008 ice storm covered the region in ice, making for a glistening landscape.

Trees, branches and power lines had the look of being encased in diamonds.

But the ice was heavy, which caused trees to split in half, and branches and trees to come crashing down onto the power lines leaving massive power outages.

Officials called the ice storm that hit the Monadnock Region in December 2008 historically unprecedented.

Following the storm, Public Service of New Hampshire representatives said it would take at least a week to restore power to the area. But it took many more weeks for many in the region to have their electricity restored.

The electricity supplier PSNH, now Eversource, reported initially 322,000 of its approximately half million PSNH customers in the region were without power following the storm.

The storm had stuck on Dec. 11, and by Dec. 15 PSNH reported that number had shrunk to 135,000.

Many in the Monadnock Region remained without power for many more weeks.

According to Sue Blothenburg, who was PSNH Western Central community relations manager at the time, the Monadnock Region was among the hardest hit in the state, with every town in the area impacted by the storm.

Blothenburg,​​​​​​ said she had heard estimates ranging from one week to four weeks before all customers would had their service restored, but she said most would see their power returned in a week to 10 days.

“There are a gazillion trees down,” she said the week of the 2008 ice storm. “It takes time to do that kind of work. It is time consuming to get lines repaired.”

The process for restoring power, according to PSNH spokesman Martin Murray at the time, would be to first work on life support customers and medical emergency customers, including police, fire and hospitals.

“For example, MCH is still without power,” Murray said. “We have crews that have been working on that issue for two days and we still have not restored power to all customers.”

Laura Gingras, vice president of philanthropy and community relations at Monadnock Community Hospital, said at the time that the hospital was running on backup generators, but was limiting its services, such as surgery, while on the generators.

Residents hoping to restore power to their homes went out and bought generators, the local supply, however, soon ran out. During the days that followed residents invested in “paper generators,” which meant they paid for generators in advance and turned in their receipts when the generators were available.

Line and road crews were called in from all over the country and Canada to deal with repairing power lines and clearing roads covered in downed trees and sheets of ice.

Without power many could not heat their homes and were taken in by shelters opened in the area or into the homes of neighbors who had wood-stoves to heat with. Just as the generators sold out fast, animals shelters were also soon filled or closed. When volunteers running the South Meadow School shelter learned many pet owners were choosing to stay in their freezing homes rather than leave their pets, the shelter opened up to pet owners and created an area for dogs, cats and even birds.

The PSNH officials compared the storm to a 1998 ice storm that left, 55,000 customers without power, but said that ice storm affected mostly towns in higher elevations.

“This storm is worse,” Murray said. “It has hit a much wider geographic area, basically the whole state south of the White Mountains.”

Murray said the 2008 storm hit New Hampshire harder than any other state. He said most of the outages are attributable to ice weighing down wires or tree limbs, causing them to fall on equipment. The ice is also impacting the repair process, closing roads to the line and tree-trimming crews.

“The largest challenge is simply getting to the areas that need help and also the sheer number of areas that need help,” Murray said.

Murray said when the crisis is over PSNH would discuss how to better prepare.

“This is the storm we will mark all future storms by,” Murray said at the time adding, “I doubt we will ever see another storm like this one in your lifetime or in my lifetime. There were three times the number of outages than the previous historic storm did. There’s never been anything like it.”

Do you have a story about your experiences during the December 2008 ice storm? Please share it with us hear at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, please send it to news@ledgertranscript.com with “December 2008 ice storm” in the subject line.