Sandy floods Island Park, leaves Portsmouth powerless

PORTSMOUTH — Hurricane Sandy flooded Island Park three times, knocked out power to well over 2,000 homes and left Anthony House seniors stranded for awhile Monday evening. Atop the wind turbine at the high school, the wind speed indicator measured a peak gust of 77 mph at around 2:15 pm with a ten-minute average of 47.3 mph. Later, the area lost power and the wind measurements ceased. Among the many power outages, one that hit Anthony House caused special concern Monday evening when the senior housing center's emergency generator failed to kick in. Deputy Fire Chief Michael O'Brien said that because some of the residents there are wheelchair-bound and had no elevator access once the power went out, arrangements were made with First Student for a school bus to transport them to the shelter in Middletown. "But fortunately, just as that was about to happen, they managed to get a generator going" and residents were able to stay at their Anthony House apartments. Over the course of the storm, fire and rescue crews responded to 37 calls, most of them storm related. A number involved trees down on wires and trees on houses. There was also an accident that may have been storm related when a car slammed into a tree on West Main Road. The driver was treated at the scene for minor injuries. Public Works Director David Kehew said that fallen trees and high water were the biggest challenges. Generally, conditions were worse in the east and center parts of town — "better on the west side. And Prudence really got hit. The entire island is without power now," he said Tuesday morning. Flooding was thrice a problem in Island Park and Common Fence Point neighborhoods. Honors for first street to flood was Cedar Avenue in Island Park. Flooding was reported there at 8:48 a.m. Monday. The second high tide in the evening brought much more water. Park Avenue was covered to nearly two feet deep in places with lesser amounts down connecting side stress. Common Fence Boulevard was closed due to flooding as well as were parts of Anthony Road for awhile. "But then, as soon as the tide started to fall after 8:30, it was like the plug being pulled in the bathtub. People said they were amazed at how fast the water disappeared," Mr. Kehew said. Park Avenue flooded yet again with Tuesday morning's high tide but this episode was less severe. He credited Rick January and William Bohensky with doing yeoman's work on Prudence in tough conditions. "They did a lot of preparation, building barriers, getting ready, and it helped." Tuesday, another man was sent out to help the small island crew. In Portsmouth, no road may have been harder hit than Jepson Lane where four poles snapped in quick succession. There the National Guard came in to help with traffic control while power crews struggled to fix the mess. Other hard-hit stress included Park Avenue and Sandy Point Avenue. On Emanuel Drive, a massive tree — "It must have been six feet at the base" — came down and blocked the road. During the evening rush hour Monday, a tree fell halfway across East Main Road near Town Hall blocking two lanes of traffic. "The road is impassible," a police officer reported. By Tuesday morning there were still over 2,000 customers without electrical power, among them Town Hall which was operating with a generator. The Prudence Island ferry shout down at the end of Sunday's runs, well before Sandy arrived. Ferry owner Bruce Medley said that when the Coast Guard closed the bay Sunday evening for safety reasons, the ferry was required to shut down as well. "The Coast Guard  now closes the bay and it is no longer our call at all," Mr. Medley said. Those who hoped to drop their trash at the transfer station Saturday ahead of the storm faced colossal lines. At times the lines, stretched from Hedly Street and far into the Portsmouth Business Park. Those who weren't dumping their trash were apparently filling up their cars' gasoline tanks. The Cumberland Farms station at the corner of Sprague Street and East Main Road  was out of gas Saturday evening.
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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.