CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – The tornado that ripped through New Hampshire on Thursday tore a 40-mile swath through 11 communities, causing a staggering amount of damage, but somehow, a low number of casualties.

“The state of New Hampshire dodged a bullet on this one,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist John Jensenius, who surveyed the damage. “Some of the areas are just flattened in terms of trees. If there had been houses there, they would have been crushed.”

At least a half-dozen houses were crushed from Deerfield to Effingham, and one was obliterated in Deerfield, where Brenda Stevens, 57, was killed. At least 200 other homes were damaged and about a dozen people hurt.

“Certainly, there was a potential for more loss of life,” Jensenius said.

After surveying the damage Friday and Saturday, Jensenius confirmed it was caused by a twister that moved 40-50 mph through woods and over lakes and homes.

“There are areas near Ossipee where a third-of-a-mile-wide path is completed flattened with large trees,” Jensenius said.

Tornado damage was confirmed by Friday evening in nine communities, and after surveying Pittsfield and Northwood, Jensenius added them to the list on Saturday.

Jensenius says the twister moved from Deerfield to Northwood, Epsom, Pittsfield, Barnstead and Alton. It then moved through New Durham, Wolfeboro, Freedom, Ossipee and Effingham.

In several towns, it was a category 2 tornado with winds of 111 to 135 mph.

“At this point, we think there was just one tornado,” that lifted off the ground at places, causing breaks in the damage.

Where it hit, the winds blew down or snapped huge trees and smashed houses in one spot, and left property next door unscathed.

Jensenius said the original estimate of about a 20-mile-long path came from a flyover that apparently did not include the entire path.

The storm took less than an hour to move from Deerfield to Effingham, he said.

Several factors helped contribute to the low number of deaths and injuries. Much of the storm path was over woods, many people were not home when the storm hit their property, others who sensed it coming scrambled to safer places and some heeded the weather service’s tornado warnings after hearing them on radio or TV.

“The good news side of it is a number of people who did hear the warning … did take protective action,” Jensenius said. “We do know the word got out.”


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