HAMPTON, N.H. (AP) — The massive late-October tempest dubbed Frankenstorm put presidential politicking on hold in this battleground state while utility crews began the arduous process of restoring electricity to tens of thousands of homes and businesses left in the dark.
With winds topping 70 mph offshore, the massive storm caused a tree to fall on a vehicle in Windham, left a high of over 200,000 homes and businesses in the dark, and swept away plans by the presidential campaigns to hold events in New Hampshire. About a half-dozen homes were evacuated in Gorham after officials got concerned about the rising Peabody River.
Outages were down to about 179,000 by early Tuesday and a lot of damage was reported, with trees and power lines on roads and a number of local roads closed because of flooding.
"This is going to be a multi-day restoration," said Mike Skelton, a spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire, the state's largest utilty.
But it could have been worse. "If it was 10 below zero, we'd have serious problems, with pipes and water mains freezing," said Jim Van Dongen, emergency management spokesman. A year ago, the state was digging itself out of a surprise snowstorm, dubbed "Snowtober," which brought far more power outages.
The National Weather Service recorded gusts Monday evening of 60 mph in Portsmouth, 62 mph in Londonderry and 76 mph at the Isle of Shoals, 6 miles off the coast. Forecasters said rainfall could reach 4 inches. Mount Washington recorded a peak wind gust of 140 mph.
In Windham, a powerful gust caused a tree to fall on a vehicle Monday evening, leaving a man critically injured.. Windham police were unable to provide details.
About a half-dozen homes along the Peabody River in Gorham were evacuated after officials got a flash-flood warning about 1:50 a.m. Tuesday.
Emergency Management Director Chad Miller said the river rose rapidly in several hours.
"We didn't want to take too many chances," Miller told WMUR-TV. He said authorities also were watching the rising Moose River.
Gov. John Lynch declared a state of emergency, urging motorists to stay off roads. He requested a federal emergency declaration for all 10 counties.
Residents appeared to have followed that advice. "People hunkered down to stay out of the weather," said Chris Pope, state director of the Homeland Security Department.
Sandy, no longer a hurricane, remained dangerous after slamming ashore in New Jersey and combining with two other weather systems.
People were urged to stay away from the dangerous surf, but some were drawn to the ocean's fury. Dimitri Garbuzov, a new surfer, was lured to Hampton Beach by the images he saw on a "surf cam."
"I knew the waves were going to be impressive," the 30-year-old said. "Plus, I've never seen what the ocean looks like in a storm."
Though the beach was closed, dozens of onlookers gathered on the sidewalks, some cheering as if they were on an amusement park ride each time a wave crashed over the seawall.
Elaine St. Pierre, 69, of Goffstown, said she initially thought her husband was crazy to suggest driving to Hampton, but called it "a once in a lifetime thing."
"I'm glad we came, but I'll be glad to get home," she said as she got sprayed by the foamy seawater.
Some marshy areas and roads near the beach were flooded. In nearby Portsmouth, the library, City Hall and other buildings closed at 4 p.m., and Halloween trick-or-treating, originally planned for Tuesday, was postponed until Saturday. The ports of Portsmouth and Portland, Maine, took the unusual steps of closing to commercial traffic at 5 p.m., the Coast Guard said.
Politicians surrendered to the storm. Vice President Joe Biden canceled a rally planned for Monday in Keene, and Republican Mitt Romney's wife, Ann Romney, called off her bus tour through the state. Both campaigns urged supporters to donate money, goods or supplies for the relief effort.
Romney campaign volunteer Cheryl Poussard, of Hampstead, was looking forward to seeing Mrs. Romney. Instead, she stayed at the campaign's office in Derry and helped make phone calls.
Romney himself had planned to hold a rally in Milford on Tuesday night, but that also was canceled, as was first lady Michelle Obama's appearance at the University of New Hampshire.
In Concord, cooking supply shop owner Mike Beauregard said Obama's decision to cancel his campaign plans elsewhere Monday to focus on his official duties shouldn't be viewed as a political move.
"The last thing first responders need is for these folks to be running around," said Beauregard, an independent who leans Republican but declined to say whom he's voting for.
Numerous schools across the state were closed, and flights were canceled at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. At least 13 shelters opened across the state.
Associated Press writers Kathy McCormack and Norma Love in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.