High water

Popular Seacoast pastime in all seasons: going where the water is splashing over and screaming when you get wet.

Big clouds and Boar's Head

Photos are from Friday morning, after the storm.

Power seems mostly restored now. A few friends didn’t get plugged in to the grid again until today.

Marine memorial at Hampton Beach

Seacoastonline: Crowds gather to witness aftermath of Hampton Beach fire

A steady stream of somber residents and summer
beachgoers paced the usually desolate off-season, snow-dusted streets
at Hampton Beach Saturday, mourning the charred remains of businesses
that, for many, represented a lifetime of summer memories.

I am especially going to miss the skeeball machines, with the heavy old wooden balls, the rough ramp, unpredictable ball-hop, and the bulls-eye of rings. They just don’t make them like that anymore, literally. I guess that makes them irreplaceable.

I remember the summer years ago that Laura wanted to accumulate enough tickets to win the Mickey Mouse clock. Even with our mad skeeball skilz, we realized we would have to spend about $500 in quarters to win the little plastic clock. Lesson in seaside entertainment economics.

When she worked at that same arcade last summer, she spent a lot of time staffing the tickets-exchanged-for-prizes counter, aka Redemption. When I picked her up, she would tell me stories from her day. There were so many quirky moments and characters, we imagined a sitcom or screenplay for an indie movie.

When I picked her up at the bus from the airport last night, she wanted to go see the where the Hampton Beach fire had been.

When she saw the charred wood and metal remnants of Happy Hampton arcade, she said, “This is weird. It was so old inside I just figured it would always be like that – always be there – and someday I would come back to visit and everything would be the same.”

Saturday morning and all is well, for some

Ye waves

The Lady, Hampton Beach

Hundreds of thousands still without power, but here on my street we’re not among them. Ah the sweet sound of ice cubes clinking in the ice cube maker and clothes tumbling in the dryer.

Wondering (like I was) if fridge and freezer food is safe after an outage?

Here’s the rule: “The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.”

We got an inch of snow last night and three deer walked past the house early this morning.

Seacoast storm and Hampton Beach fire

Hampton marsh from Route 101.

Floods, fires, hurricane force wind gusts, trees and lines down, roofs smashed, no power.

Greetings from Lane Memorial Library in Hampton, on the Day After Big Storm. (There is a small island of power in Hampton and luckily the library is part of it.)

Ocean Blvd, Hampton Beach around 10 a.m.

News: Hampton Beach hotel fire destroys block

HAMPTON — A fire fueled by heavy winds quickly spread from the Surf Motel to adjacent buildings and destroyed a block of businesses before it was brought under control early Friday morning.

“This is a sad day,” said Hampton Beach Area Commission Chairman John Nyhan. “These folks have worked hard all these years, struggling to make ends meet these last few years. And to have this happen. It’s just horrible.”

The ferocious blaze started late Thursday at the Surf Motel in Hampton. The 600 to 800 block of five wood-frame buildings, including the Happy Hampton Arcade and Mrs. Mitchell’s, quickly caught fire.

Firefighters battled the blaze that erupted shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday and by the time it was under control around 4:30 a.m. Friday morning all five properties were determined to be a total loss.

An additional 6 to 12 properties received fire damage.

No one was hurt.

Where the Surf Hotel used to be.

Fire trucks, hoses.

WMUR: Fire destroys Hampton Beach hotel, businesses: Strong winds blow roof off burning building, spread flames

Firefighters said the fire quickly went to five alarms and 125 firefighters, including some from Maine and Massachusetts, were called to help contain the blaze.

The bad weather stretched the resources of the Hampton fire department, which had sent teams and equipment to several weather-related emergencies, such as fallen trees and transformer fires, before the hotel blaze was reported at 12:05 a.m. Friday and had to scramble to respond, Fire Capt. David Lang said.

Surrounding communities also were taxed and couldn’t send help right away.

Officials said the already difficult fire was made even more complicated due to natural gas lines in the building.

“We had uncontrolled natural gas fires burning inside the structure because we were unable to get to a point where we could isolate those gas lines,” said Hampton Fire Chief Chris Silver.

Silver said more than a million gallons of water were used to battle the fire

What’s left of Happy Hampton Arcade.

My daughter worked there last summer. She will be sad when she gets home Saturday night. I’m sad now!

The gov just declared a state of emergency.

I drove around a long time looking for coffee this morning and hundreds of trees are down and many roads are flooded. Only a few intersections had traffic lights working.

So hot, the fire melted the siding on buildings across the street.

The wind was quite a surprise last night too. I could hear trees breaking and falling from about 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. Our power went out at 11 p.m. The cat and dog got in bed with me.

I’m tired now.

It’s another know-your-neighbors weather event, like last year’s ice storm, and spring floods and summer downbursts in other years.

One woman told me she now had three people staying in her beach cottage because she had power and heat and because they had a tree through the roof.

Two of my neighbors are stuck without a vehicle for up to a week, according to the power company, because trees and a line are down across their driveway and the power guys told them not to touch it till they get there.

Still smoking.

Surf still up. Weird foamy surf.

Flag and news trucks.

Did I mention the hurricane force winds? What’s up with that in February?

The Lady, a memorial for soldiers and sailors lost at sea.

FOX: Relentless storm leaves more than a million in the dark

The storm brought a wide array of calamity over a broad area after getting a slow start Thursday, when snow began falling in the Philadelphia region around dawn but didn’t start sticking to the ground until dusk.

It turned out that snow — 31 inches in Monroe, N.Y. — was only part of the story. In the parts of coastal New England where winds caused havoc, the precipitation mostly came as rain.

Power failures were so severe and widespread in New Hampshire — 330,000 customers in the dark in a state of 1.3 million people — that even the state Emergency Operations Center was operating on a generator.

In Kennebunkport, Maine, a loud boom from a transformer early Friday awoke Michael Wiewel and cut power to his home. A short time later, a 50-foot poplar crashed on his roof above the bed where he and his wife

“It sounded like a bomb going off,” he said.

Throughout the area, crews were cutting fallen trees that littered yards and pounded roofs. Power lines dangled free.

The highest wind reported was 91 mph in Portsmouth, N.H. — well above hurricane force of 74 mph. Gusts hit 60 mph or more from the mountains of West Virginia to New York’s Long Island and Massachusetts.

In the coastal town of Hampton, the unoccupied Surf Hotel caught fire, and the howling winds quickly spread the blaze to the rest of the block. Five wood-frame buildings, including an arcade and a restaurant, burned. The cause was unknown.

Bye for now from Calamityville.

P.S. I really look forward to reading and learning more about this storm. It was not normal. Everywhere huge trees are snapped off like this.

Keep cold, my love

North Church

Swoon? Portsmouth named ‘most romantic city’

That’s dubious.

The article is illustrated with a photo of a couple kissing in Market Square. Must have been an extremely difficult shot to get, like capturing the Loch Ness monster on film. I have never, ever seen anyone kiss anyone in downtown Portsmouth.

This is New Hampshire. We are the 50th most extraverted state. We are bookish. Kind of outdoorsy. We dress down. We all look alike. Our enthusiasm is reserved for beer. And recycling, and farmers’ markets.

I love Portsmouth, but this romantic notion by a travel writer from away that our little city is some kind of Paris on the Piscataqua is a parade upon which I have to rain.

Rain, which is intermittently torrential today, is one reason. And it’s not nice rain. Soft rain. Paris rain. Irish countryside rain. It’s cold hard New England rain. It’s made of granite and ice and the tormented souls of Puritans. Sometimes it comes with a howling wind from the North Atlantic and then picks up some additional wet chill from the 100-foot-deep Piscataqua River – a cold river made of a hundred cold rivulets and mountain streams, and studded with sharp rocks, deadly whirlpools and nuclear attack submarines.

And the snow, so much snow sometimes, lumped up on the narrow, irregularly-cobbled sidewalks, lingering as brown mounds and icy patches into April. Strolling hand in hand? Physically impossible. Not that anyone would.

It’s summer for a couple of months and then, if it isn’t raining, you can drink your good beer outside on a deck perched precariously at the edge of that same river – the one the writer says offers such romantic water views – the second-fastest-flowing river in North America, with a view of tugboats, rusty bridges, cranes and metal buildings at the Navy Yard, and Maine. And, if you’re lucky, a giant container ship full of road salt from Korea.

Yes, there are the restaurants and the food is often good. There are the shops, the small theaters, the above average amount of art and music, the historic buildings. The craft brewery. The potential for romantic is probably there. And, of course, romantic is in the eye of the beholder.

But I think two important “romantic city” ingredients are missing from Portsmouth: warmth and warmth. That is: good, sunny, pleasant (or even sultry) weather, which we do get once in a while but not enough, and a warm culture, or critical mass of lively, outgoing, expressive human beings.

Go to a coffee shop in downtown Portsmouth any time of the day and half the people in there are alone, staring at the screens of their laptops, snow and ice melting off their sensible boots, as they linger over a cup of fair trade organic.

Portsmouth is interesting, intelligent, historical, appealing, reserved, skeptical, sincere, literate, tasty, worldly, provincial, pretentious, sturdy, creative, judgmental, open-minded, serious, original in the commonly accepted notion of the word, worth a visit, and a neat place to live in or near. But romantic? Eh.

Romantic poetry, New Hampshire style: Good-Bye, and Keep Cold.

7:45 a.m.

The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only. – Joseph Wood Krutch

Embracing winter

Christine Reuss, Hampton (Photo by Deb Cram, Seacoast Media Group)

In today’s Seacoast Sunday newspaper:

Hockey mom!
By Amy Kane

Who is that masked woman in pads, gloves and helmet, stick in hand, blades sharp, ready to do battle on the ice?

She might be your mom.

Every Thursday morning at The Rinks at Exeter, a group of women meet to practice the fundamental hockey skills of skating, stick handling, passing and shooting. These beginner-to-intermediate level players must be older than 18, but are generally 30-something to 50-something.

Some of the women were first exposed to the sport as schedule managers, chauffeurs and laundresses for their hockey-playing kids. With gear bags stowed in the back of the family vehicle, many hours of the chilly season are spent driving to and from practices, games and tournaments.

Stephanie Leclerc, 35, of Dover, makes the trip to Exeter five to seven days a week during the season. Three of her four sons are enrolled in ice hockey programs at The Rinks. Leclerc got a bag of gear and a stick for Christmas. She enrolled in the Women’s Hockey Skills Program in January. She had never worn hockey skates or played the game before, but it was love at first ice.

The intense concentration needed to coordinate skating, stick handling and game awareness is what is most appealing to her.

“It’s a mental reprieve,” said Leclerc. “With four kids, I’m going all the time. This is the only place I don’t think about anything else — because you can’t think about anything else.”

She has now enthusiastically added Thursday mornings to her rink schedule. No wonder the program motto is “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

Ice hockey runs in the family for Alicia Zampitella, 46, of Ipswich, Mass. She skates regularly with a group of friends who travel to Exeter to practice fundamentals. Her husband coaches hockey and her teenage son and two daughters all play on teams.

“We have five hockey bags in the garage. It’s a way of life,” she said. “There’s nothing better than going up to Montreal for a tournament, meeting friends there — it’s a social life.”

Catherine Meinen, 35, is a 5-foot-tall slender blonde who had never played sports before she signed up for hockey in January. She was surprised to discover her favorite part was the physicality of the game.

“It’s not just the exertion, it’s the contact,” she said.

Women’s ice hockey rules do not allow for checking, but there is plenty of accidental bumping and knocking around as players scramble for the puck.

The Greenland resident was a middle-school teacher at Portsmouth Christian Academy. She is now a stay-at-home mom of her 15-month-old daughter. Her husband sometimes comes to watch her play.

Meinen is a beginner, but she dropped in for coed pickup games at Stick and Puck a couple of Friday mornings.

“I had the time of my life,” she said. “My feet were throbbing and sore, there’s so much footwork and muscular engagement. It’s a good workout and it’s good for my mental health.”

Christine Reuss of Hampton loves to work out too, but what initially drew her to hockey was watching her son, a Winnacunnet High School sophomore, play the game. His enthusiasm was contagious.

Reuss is originally from Cocoa Beach, Fla., and she has never really learned to love the cold weather, she said. “But now I’m trying to embrace winter.”

Kurt Mallet, director of hockey operations at The Rinks, started the over-18 women’s program in late fall. The second session is under way and the third begins in early March. Pre-registrations for the six-week sessions are $90 and walk-ons are $20. A limited amount of gear is available to loan, but most women purchase new or used gear. Currently about 18 women show up each Thursday morning from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

“It’s turning into something special,” said Mallett. “We’d like to have a women’s team some day and host a tournament, maybe in a couple of years.”

One or two evenings will be added in spring, to accommodate women working during the day, and to add more ice time for those interested. Mallett teaches the program, aided by Peter Tufts, an instructor who is responsible for scheduling and team building, and Mark Farrington, director of skating and a power skating instructor.

On a recent Thursday, Mallett and Tufts directed drills focusing on crossovers, turns, using the inner and the outer edge of the skate, stick and puck skills, followed by passing practice and a partial game.

Tufts, who has coached both men and women at the college level, said it is a pleasure working with these women.

“They listen and do what you ask, evaluating what you’re saying to make sure it makes sense, and asking questions if they don’t understand,” he said.

For information about the Women’s Hockey Skills Program, visit or call Kurt Mallet at 775-7423.

You shall not last

More fantastical fire…

“Whoa, look at this one.” I was reviewing my photos.

“There is definitely something in there, some creature. A bull maybe,” said eldest daughter Anna, home for the weekend for the Backyard Burn.

“Or minotaur.”

Later I showed youngest daughter Laura and she said: “I know!… what’s it called?… ‘You shall not pass.'”


Recall the epic battle of Gandalf and the Balrog of Moria from The Fellowship of the Ring. Like Aslan and the White Witch, it does not have an immediately happy ending. Good prevails over evil eventually, but in surprising ways and not by brute strength.

Our backyard bonfire balrog is apparently evanescent, here and gone in a flash of burning Christmas trees.