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Deadly storms pummel NH

Many homes damaged by winds and falling trees; residents assist those trapped to get out to safety.

BY PJ HELLER | EPSOM, N.H. | July 25, 2008

"It was just pouring. You couldn't see out the window. The trees were blowing."

—Gary H. Cote, pastor at Merrimack Valley Church

One person was killed and as many as 100 homes were damaged Thursday when severe thunderstorms swept across central and eastern New Hampshire.

"It came down in buckets," said the Gary H. Cote, pastor at Merrimack Valley Church in Epsom. "It was just pouring. You couldn't see out the window. The trees were blowing."

Cote said the church was not damaged and that all of his members were safe. One of them was helping to clear trees in the Barnstead area so rescuers could get to people trapped in their homes, he said.

Gov. John Lynch declared a state of emergency in five counties — Merrimack, Strafford, Belknap, Carroll and Rockingham — and he called out the National Guard to assist in the recovery.

"The situation is still ongoing," Lynch said in a statement issued Thursday. "I urge all New Hampshire citizens to take sensible precautions and to heed all warnings from public safety officials."

Lynch toured the stricken areas by helicopter and reported that at least 100 homes had been damaged and as many as six were destroyed.

The National Weather Service posted flood warnings through late Thursday night for all five counties as well as Coos County in northern New Hampshire and Oxford and York counties in Maine.

Some areas were forecast to get an inch of rain an hour with accumulations of 3 to 5 inches or more, forecasters said.

The storm downed trees, toppling them onto homes and roads. Telephone and power lines were downed, knocking out power to some 6,000 homes and blocking roadways. Power was slowly being restored Thursday evening.

Damage from the powerful storm stretched about 25 miles, from Epsom to New Durham. The heaviest damage was reported in the Epsom and Deerfield areas, located about 10 miles east of Concord.

It was not immediately known if a tornado touched down in the area. A tornado warning had been issued.

The victim of the storm was a 57-year-old woman who was killed when her Deerfield house collapsed. The woman's husband and 3-month-old grandchild were injured.

Several traffic accidents were blamed on the storm.

Authorities were going door to door to check on residents and damages.

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