Baby's Cries Lead to His Rescue in Violent New Hampshire Storm That Kills Grandmother

A baby's cries led to his rescue after a possible tornado demolished his grandparents' lakeside home and took his grandmother's life, a state official said Friday.

The infant's grandmother was killed in Thursday's sudden tragedy on Northwood Lake. State Fire Marshal William Degnan said Friday that firefighters heard the baby's cries and found him in a void between the flattened home's first and second floors.

The body of the grandmother, Brenda Stevens, 57, also was found between the floors, Degnan said.

He said Stevens' husband, Harley, was blown out of the home.

"He was blown out the side of the building and found in the side yard," Degnan told The Associated Press in Concord before heading to the area.

Authorities have not released the 3-month-old boy's name. Concord Hospital said Thursday he had been admitted, but said the family asked it not to release further information.

Neighbors say the couple had been watching the boy while his parents, Harley Stevens' son and his wife, were at work.

Violent storms including possible tornadoes swept through central New Hampshire on Thursday and destroyed several homes, killing Stevens inside her home and injuring her husband and infant grandchild.

Photos taken by The Associated Press show the home in splinters, with firefighters searching the rubble.

Police and firefighters were checking door-to-door into the evening for more victims in areas along Northwood Lake, and probably would through the night, state Fire Marshal William Degnan said.

"This was a highly destructive storm causing a tremendous amount of damage in a short period of time," Gov. John Lynch said at an evening briefing.

He said about a dozen people were hurt. There was no immediate word on how serious their injuries were.

Public Service Company of New Hampshire said early Friday it had about 1,000 customers without power in the Alton-Barnstead-Strafford area. It had another 200 in Ossipee, Effingham and Freedom, plus about 100 around Epsom, Northwood and Pittsfield.

The total of 1,300 was down from nearly 3,000 outages Thursday night. Public Service said progress is slow because there was so much damage from toppled trees.

Areas around the lake, which is surrounded by three towns, appeared to be the hardest hit as the storm devastated parts of an 18-to-21-mile swath that ran northeast.

Many homes in one area on Northwood Lake were badly damaged or destroyed. Some had been blown off their foundations, leaving an odd couch or refrigerator amid downed trees and debris.

"I'm really just in shock," said Katie Toll, 22, who lived in a two-story home owned by her father. "My life was in here."

Along the path of the storm, emergency crews had to cut their way through fallen trees and contend with downed power lines to reach homes where residents were trapped.

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

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.

"It was a narrow swath of destruction that went from Epsom all the way to New Durham," he said.

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.

The agency had issued a tornado warning, and some witnesses described tornadoes and at least one funnel cloud.

Telephone service was slowly being restored. FairPoint Communications spokesman Jeff Nevins said Friday that crews were out most of the night and will work through the weekend.

He said about 20 of the 100 damaged poles have been reset. The full scope of the damage remained hard to assess, since some downed telephone lines may be working while others were cut by Thursday's storms, according to Nevins.

FairPoint has had about 700 trouble reports, but they estimate there probably are many others that haven't been called in yet.

New Hampshire has one or two small tornadoes touch down per year, meteorologist Kirk Apffel said. He said the agency would look at the damage Friday for evidence including whether it was from one direction, suggesting a microburst, or two, which could be a tornado.

Terry McGovern knew the dead woman.

"She was a wonderful person and she loved to have fun with her family and her husband. I don't think I ever saw her when she wasn't laughing or smiling," said McGovern, a Hooksett resident whose mother lives at the lake.

Neighbors said she had been watching the infant boy while his parents, Stevens' stepson and his wife, were at work.

The Stevens home was across Northwood Lake from Ron Olson's home in Epsom.

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

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 on Ellie Point had roofs missing or smashed, some with trees toppled onto them.

"The storm wiped us out," said Nancy Madden, a summer resident from Middleton, Mass., who was away having lunch with her husband when a tree took out part of their roof and deck.

"It's just a mess," she said.

With thunderstorms still moving through the state Thursday evening, utility officials counted about 6,000 customers without power and said restoring it might take days for some.

Telephone service also was disrupted.

"There is a significant amount of damage," said Fairpoint Communications spokesman Jeff Nevins. He said crews were having trouble getting through to assess the damage. The governor said about 100 utility poles were down.

Lise Patrick took shelter inside her home on Merrymeeting Lake in New Durham.

"I'm shaken up, but alive. I guess that's all that matters," Patrick, 64, said after the storm passed.

"All my trees are down. Part of my deck is gone. I can see lawn chairs and furniture floating in the lake," she said.

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