Thunderstorms send more than one jolt through New Hampshire.

Lightning strikes Wednesday afternoon in two New Hampshire communities injured more than a dozen people, including children at a day camp and four people at a greyhound racing track.

In Pelham, officials said nine campers and counselor suffered minor injuries when lighting struck through an open door of a lifeguard building at the Veterans Memorial Park where four adults and 11 children were inside.

In Belmont, lightning shattered a utility pole at the Lakes Region Greyhound Park, injuring four employees, showering cars with debris and knocking out power as dozens of patrons watched televised races inside.

In Pelham, “they were doing arts and crafts and they were sitting at a large long aluminum table,” Fire Chief David Fisher said, adding that lightning “hit the aluminum table and in turn hit some of the individuals that were touching the aluminum table.”

Fisher told The Telegraph the door was open because “they needed to get some air in there” during the thunderstorm. “Shocks were coming in and they moved us to the bathrooms where it was much safer,” camper James Sullivan said.

Most of the campers ranged in age from 6 to 12 years.

About five ambulances responded while the Hudson and Windham fire departments assisted Pelham firefighters.

Four adults and five children were taken to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua. The Fire Department declined to identify any of them.

Some of the children suffered minor “Band-Aid burns” on their arms and legs, Fisher said.

A spokeswoman for the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua said four campers and counselors treated there appeared to have suffered only mild electrical shock. Two of the victims were released after treatment and two were admitted in good condition, she said.

Parents picked up the remaining campers at the lakefront park used by the town for a youth summer camp near the Massachusetts border.

In Belmont, the bolt came as waves of thunderstorms swept across the state during the afternoon, cutting visibility, dropping trees and knocking out power to thousands.

“It was like a bomb went off,” said Assistant General Manager William Magee.

Belmont police officer Judy Estes said one woman was injured when the surge reached her through the mouse on her computer. She said a man was injured while touching a metal door at the kennel.

She had no information on the other injuries and Magee didn’t elaborate.

“They felt a tingling sensation,” Magee said, adding that the injuries did not appear serious. The four were taken to the hospital as a precaution, he said.

About 70 track patrons were indoors watching simulcast races, about 150 feet from the strike.

“Anyone who was touching metal got tingling,” Magee said.

Falling debris smashed the rear window on one car and punched a hole in the front window of another.

“We dodged a big bullet,” he said. “Thank God everyone’s all right.”

At about the same time, another band of rain hit the Manchester area, knocking down trees and power lines and flooding streets.

Public Service Company said about 14,000 homes and businesses lost power in southern New Hampshire.

Traffic around Manchester and on Routes 101 and 293, was a mess because traffic signals were out.

Jim Van Dongen of the state emergency management office said more heavy rain also was reported in the Keene area.

A lightning hit also was reported at Manchester radio station WZID.

In Goffstown, the fire department said lightning strikes tripped numerous false fire alarms. Lightning strikes also were reported in Portsmouth.

Wednesday’s havoc continued a week of tumultuous weather that brought several inches of rain to some areas in just an hour or so.

Even as the rain continued to fall throughout the state, a legislative committee approved lending $1 million to towns that need help repairing flood damage.

Gov. Craig Benson told the committee the towns will repay the state after they get federal disaster money. He declared a disaster Monday in seven southwestern New Hampshire communities.

“This is not a handout,” he said. “This is a loan payable back to the state of New Hampshire.”

Benson said he wants to be sure the towns have the cash to pay contractors to rebuild damaged roads. He said this is the busiest season for contractors and some may choose to accept paying jobs if it looks like money to repair the roads won’t be available immediately.

Senate President Tom Eaton joked that some towns will use the money to “build an ark, just in case.”

AP-ES-08-13-03 2054EDT



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