Search continues for the missing after New Hampshire floods

Thursday, October 13, 2005

ALSTEAD, N.H. -- Linda Pelow was in her house alone when the floodwaters suddenly surrounded it.

"I grabbed the puppy and went up to the attic," she said. "It was like watching the tsunami come at me, because all of a sudden, here comes the mud."

Pelow said she did not expect to survive Sunday's floodwaters, but her house was left standing.

"I just prayed and prayed. I thought I was gone with it," she said. "I am totally the luckiest person still in Alstead."

But just as workers were making progress restoring power and getting help to flood-ravaged southwestern New Hampshire, state officials were bracing for the possibility of more floods. Rain began falling in the hard-hit Keene-Alstead area Wednesday morning, and the National Weather Service said there could be another 3 to 6 inches in the next several days. Flood watches were announced for several areas.

"More rain could bring us back to square one," Fish and Game Lt. Todd Bogardus said. "We're doing everything we can to prepare [for it]."

The news came as rescue crews and police dogs continued searching rivers and woods for those still missing in New Hampshire. Gov. John Lynch said that two more people may be missing, which would bring the total to six. But because information was constantly changing, he and other state officials couldn't be sure.

"It's hard to be precise, in terms of exactly who the missing are, but we believe it is four to six," Lynch said. "It's the result of maybe relatives, for example, calling, not being able to contact somebody in their family."

The weekend of heavy downpours left at least 10 people dead from Maine to New Hampshire.

From Friday evening through Sunday, rainstorms dumped as much as 10 inches on New England and the mid-Atlantic states. In New Hampshire, the storm dropped 10.8 inches in Hinsdale and 10.5 inches in Keene.

Lynch said the floods were the worst the state had experienced in a quarter-century, and he sought a federal disaster declaration. Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were expected to arrive later this week.

Help continued pouring into the small New Hampshire towns devastated by flooding.

Coordination, though, was made more difficult because all the equipment the Alstead police department had to deal with such a disaster -- a ham radio, two-way radios, emergency generators and other equipment -- was destroyed when the police station flooded almost to the ceiling.

"All of our police records, computers, weapons ... everything that was in there is gone. It's destroyed," Alstead police Chief Christopher Lyon said.

Among those still missing Tuesday were Sally and Tim Canfield, whose home was washed away by floodwaters. The Canfields had twice declined to evacuate.

"These kids grew up here. They grew up on the river and never saw it high enough to do any damage," said Rick Mason, a brother-in-law of Tim Canfield.

Power was restored Wednesday morning to more than two-thirds of the 1,500 customers in western New Hampshire that lost service. The electric company, National Grid, expected to have power restored to remaining customers later Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Verizon reported 1,000 to 1,200 customers lost phone service in the storm. The company expected to restore service to most customers by the end of Wednesday and the rest on Thursday.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: