A Thursday snowstorm that could have the region headed toward record snowfall totals for December, hampered motorists and wreaked particular havoc on Interstate 93 with accidents causing substantial delays and forcing highway closures in the Ashland area. Local meteorologist Russ Hobby said the latest storm dumped another 81/2 inches of fresh snow in Laconia brining the December total to 32.1 inches - a number that makes the month one of the top five snowiest since he began recording weather data in 1971.
The city currently sits with 23 inches of ground cover and the recent storm has Hobby thinking this December could eclipse the previous record of 40.5 inches of snow set in 1972.
"At the rate we are going we might (beat the record) if it storms all next week," said Hobby, adding that a Sunday storm is brewing, but could produce more rain than white stuff.
Thursday's stubborn storm resulted in hours of snowfall that extended through both the morning and afternoon commutes contributing toward dozens of motor vehicles accidents all over the Lakes Region. Schools throughout the area closed for the day.
Most of the daytime accidents happened at around 11:30 a.m. on Interstate 93 with two separate tractor-trailer related accidents forcing closures in both directions (southbound and northbound) at around noontime. The interstate was expected to be closed for several hours with at least one tractor trailer being on its side, according to Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton.
According to Lt. John Southland of the New Hampton Fire Department, his crew, along with Sanbornton, was called to an accident on I-93 South that involved a tractor-trailer and an Sport Utility Vehicle.
He said they headed south from Exit 23 and saw a tractor-trailer laying "guardrail to guardrail" completely blocking their ambulances from getting to the SUV that was south of it.
Southland said they called the Tilton-Northfield Fire District who went north from Exit 20 to a cutoff just south of the accident and then headed north in the southbound lane until they reached the victims - two unidentified men who were taken to Franklin Regional Hospital with what fire officials said were non-life-threatening injuries.
"We helped them with our equipment but we couldn't get our ambulance down to the victims," said Southland whose teams walked around the prone tractor-trailer. He said the driver of the tractor-trailer was uninjured.
Drivers on the interstate sat in stopped traffic for more than an hour as the wreck was cleaned up.
Sanbornton Fire Chief John DeSilva said he and his crews got on the highway at Exit 22 and were headed north to respond to the same accident when he came upon a two cars that had collided - sending one into the median and one off to the side of the road.
One person from that collision was taken to Franklin Regional Hospital with non life-threatening injuries.
He said the ambulance stopped to help those people and he continued north when he realized traffic has come to a complete stop and guessed there had been another accident even further north.
About one mile north, he found an empty milk collection truck from Vermont had jackknifed and was blocking both lanes of I-93 north.
"At that point we were stuck," said DeSilva who said the driver of that truck was uninjured as well.
Sanbornton Police blocked traffic from entering the highway from Exit 22 north while the state police blocked southbound traffic from entering the interstate at Exit 23. Tilton Police also prevented traffic from entering the highway at Exit 20.
"It was unbelievable up there. North and southbound," said Sanbornton Police Chief Mark Barton. "Everyone was going too fast for the road conditions."
Barton said traffic was stopped for about three hours but that most people took it in stride. He said police had a few problems with motorists trying to use the cut through to get out of traffic.
As for town, Barton said traffic on the local roads was very light and he had only one accident reported from Wednesday night.
Franklin Police reported one minor accident around 9 a.m. that involved a van going off the road on Hill Road.
Tilton Police Capt. Owen Wellington said they had no local accidents nor did the Northfield Police.
Meredith Police report very little traffic and no accidents as of mid afternoon.
"We've had a few accidents," said Laconia Police Sgt. Chris Adams who said the side streets are very slippery. He said there were three two-car accidents before 2 p.m. but no injuries were reported in any of them.
Both Laconia and Franklin Police want residents to know that until the snow is cleared winter parking bans are in place and people who violate them stand a good chance of being ticketed or even towed.
When asked about the weather pattern that has brought all the snow Hobby replied: "We are having an old fashion winter".
"Years ago we had skating by Thanksgiving and skiing by Christmas ... we certainly will have plenty of skiing by Christmas," said Hobby.