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New Hampshire Tornado? Huge Storm Levels Homes, Kills 1

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DEERFIELD, N.H. — Violent storms on Thursday in a 25-mile-long swath of central New Hampshire destroyed several homes, damaged dozens of others and left at least one person dead, authorities said as police and firefighters went door-to-door searching for more possible victims.

Other people were hurt, including the husband and baby grandson of the woman killed.

Gov. John Lynch said at an evening news conference that about a dozen people were injured. There was no immediate word on how serious their injuries were.

The National Weather Service was trying to determine whether a tornado was responsible for the damage, which stretched from about 10 miles east of Concord to beyond the eastern end of Lake Winnipesaukee near the Maine border.

Around Northwood Lake in Epsom, many homes in one area were badly damaged or destroyed by the storm, which tossed couches and refrigerators along with downed trees and other debris.

Katie Toll's belongings were scattered around her two-story home, which was pushed off its foundation. A bed ended up wrapped around a tree.

"I'm really just in shock," the 22-year-old said. "My life was in here."

Lynch declared an emergency in five counties and called up the National Guard to help.

About a dozen Guard soldiers were dispatched to Epsom. Lynch said no further callup was anticipated.

He said officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be in the area Friday to assess damage.

"It appears that there are at least 100 homes damaged and probably at least a half dozen homes which have been completely destroyed," Lynch said after a helicopter tour.

State Fire Marshal William Degnan said Brenda Stevens, 57, was killed in Deerfield, near Epsom, in one of the homes that was destroyed. Her husband and 3-month-old grandchild were injured, Degnan said without giving their names or other details.

The weather service had issued a tornado warning, and some witnesses described seeing at least one funnel cloud. One or two small tornadoes touch down in New Hampshire each year, meteorologist Kirk Apffel said.

At home near Northwood Lake, Ron Olson described a home not far away.

"Across the lake, there's a house that's just completely leveled. Gone. You can't even tell what color it was," he said.

Olson said the storm began with pounding rain followed by "a wicked, wicked loud noise _ like a train or a jet was landing on the roof."

Merrymeeting Lake in New Durham was at the northern end of the path. A cluster of about six summer homes had roofs missing or smashed, some with trees toppled onto them.

"I'm shaken up, but alive. I guess that's all that matters," said Lise Patrick, 64, who lives by the lake. "All my trees are down. Part of my deck is gone. I can see lawn chairs and furniture floating in the lake."

Downed trees and power lines blocked many roads, delaying emergency responders and utility crews. The storm knocked out power to 6,000 homes and businesses and knocked out telephone service.

The storms also delivered torrential rains to western Maine towns. A funnel cloud was reported in Bridgton, where trees were uprooted by high winds.

"It was raining cats and dogs, and maybe a cow or two," Rumford police dispatcher Tracy Higley said after a downpour in the western mountain town.

The weather service said thunderstorms across much of Maine could produce up to 2 or 3 inches of rain in some areas, large hail and damaging winds that could reach 70 mph. Flood and tornado watches were in effect in most of Maine.

Lightning strikes are believe to have caused outages that left 118,000 Bangor Hydro-Electric customers without power Thursday morning. Service was restored to nearly everyone by late morning, utility spokeswoman Susan Faloon said.


Associated Press photographer Jim Cole in Epsom and writers David Tirrell-Wysocki, Norma Love, Kathy McCormack and Larry Laughlin in Concord contributed to this report.

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