Naturally, These NH Disasters Are Some of the Most Memorable
April showers bring May flowers, or maybe a whole lot more.
Though crushing snow storms and stifling heat waves have made their mark on New Hampshire over the decades, water — and lots of it — is what has left a lasting legacy on the weather records as well as the landscape.
Big weather costs, in lives and dollars, and it can serve as memory milestones for residents. Autumn and spring storms have had significant impact in people and places in the state.
Two of New Hampshire's worst weather incidents occurred in the 1930s, at a time when weather reporting paled in comparison to what is available today. People were caught off guard, and they paid a hefty price.
Fourteen days of rain on top of a significant seasonal snowpack contributed to a rip-roaring flood in mid-March 1936.
Chunks of ice scoured the land. Water filled mill buildings and homes. Animals had to be rescued from rooftops at the Manchester zoo. According to the National Weather Service, 18 feet of water flowed through downtown Hooksett. The Merrimack River peaked at 68.4 feet in Lowell, Massachusetts and population centers like Manchester and Nashua were devastated.
Photo- Archive An aerial view of Nashua, flooded in 1936.
This all led to the federal Flood Control Act and public works projects aimed at keeping area rivers under control. Locally, the Everett Dam in Weare is one example of the result of planning that took place immediately after the flood. Several years later, the town of East Weare disappeared with the construction of the flood control dam in the 1950s.
Just two years after the flood, the Hurricane that blew in in 1938 also holds the spot as of one of the state's nastiest storms.
The storm that hit on Sept. 21 of that year devastated all of New England, coming in hard and fast over Long Island. In New Hampshire, 13 people were killed. The stories from other New England states are jaw-dropping. People rode out huge waves on top of the roofs of homes in Rhode Island that were ripped off by wind. Fish swam up swamped city streets. Thousands of buildings were destroyed. The storm cost $22 million in 1938 dollars. That equals about $376 million in 2018.
Photo- Keene Public Library/Flickr Storm damage in Keene after the Hurricane of '38
These storms are for the most part not part of the collective memory of the state. More recent events, namely Tropical Storm Irene, the Mothers Day floods in 2006 and the Alstead Flood on Oct. 9 , 2005, that killed seven people remain fresh.
The nor'easter, along with Irene on Sept. 3, 2011, take the top spot for costliest storms if you account for aid received by the federal government to the state. According to the state's Homeland Security and Emergency Management office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided:
- Over $30 million in disaster aid for the April 27, 2007, storm and $21 million for Irene.
- $25 million was given to the state for the Mothers Day flood.
- $14 million for the Alstead flood.
Homeland Security warns that wildfire danger, another likely threat in New Hampshire, runs on a 50-year cycle and that the state could be due for a big blaze. Additionally, because of the state's unique natural structure, a big earthquake could cause significant damage.
"Due to the unique geology of New Hampshire, earthquake propagation waves travel up to 40 times further than they do in the western United States. This means the area of damage could be larger," according to the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Website.
The big one in the Granite State? It occurred in 1638 and was centered around the middle of the state. It rang in at an estimate 6.8 on the Richter Scale. Another one struck of the Massachusetts North Shore in 1755, registering 5.8.