Earthquake, fire usher in the new year


January 04, 2011
REGION— The close of the holiday season was marred by two separate and unrelated incidents last Sunday night into Monday morning, as the region moved back to normal mode after an otherwise successful holiday week.

Local ski resorts reported nearly record-breaking business during the busy holiday school vacation week that started with a blockbuster of a blizzard just after Christmas, bringing crowds of skiers to the slopes to close out 2010 with some badly needed good news for the resorts and other local businesses.

But as the festivities came to a close, a tragic house fire on Weeping Birches Lane at Waterville Community Estates destroyed a single family seasonal home.

The three-story structure, unoccupied at the time of the incident, was engulfed in flames before firefighters were called to the scene. Despite their efforts, in freezing conditions and high winds, the dwelling was burned to the ground. No one was injured in the incident.

The fire was reported at 1:10 a.m. Monday morning, but may have started as much as an hour before.

Meanwhile, just before midnight Sunday, police and fire departments in as many as a dozen local communities throughout the Lakes Region were flooded with calls reporting an "explosion" or rumbling that woke them from their sleep.

While no California caliber event, the 2.5-magnitude earthquake that hit the area just before midnight might have been relatively mild on the Richter scale, but impressive enough to shake up a lot of local folks who never realized that New Hampshire, in fact, lies on ancient fault lines, and is indeed subject to seismic activity from time to time.

The largest quake recorded in the Lakes Region this century measured 5.5 on the Richter scale.

The epicenter for this past weekend's quake was reported to be about seven miles east-northeast of Plymouth, in a thickly wooded area along the border between Holderness and Ashland, with many local residents in both communities reporting the disturbance. Tremors were reported as far south as Newbury, Mass., as far west as Lebanon, as far east as Effingham, and as far north as Campton — a radius of roughly 100 miles from the epicenter.

One of the many area residents roused from their beds by the tremors was Salmon Press' own Donna Rhoades, a reporter for the Winnisquam Echo who resides in Alexandria.

"I thought a tractor trailer was coming up my drive, and couldn't figure out why," Rhoades said of the tremors that shook the ground around her home, adding that her daughter, a resident of Ashland, also reported being shaken out of a sound sleep when the quake rumbled through at around 11:45 p.m.

Kristen de Almeida also felt the tremors at her home near the Bridgewater town line in Plymouth, and found herself having to comfort her frightened son, who she said "came tearing into my bedroom because he thought the roof was coming off the house."

Fortunately, the young lad's fears were unfounded. Other than some consternation and a disruption of sound sleep, no significant damage has been reported from the quake so far.

Editor Brendan Berube contributed to this report.

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