By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Cleanup was the theme for many still experiencing post-traumatic storm disorder.
Joe McCormack of Chester took the day off from work to catch up on laundry, not as easy as it sounds when the power is still out, day five and counting.
He loaded up a few large trashbags with dirty duds and headed to the Green Collar Laundromat, known for its large capacity washers and dryers.
“I've been calling the electric company every few hours,” said McCormack, stuffing the contents of the bags into two machines. “They tell me by Wednesday everyone should have power.”
He smiles as he pours a small capful of high efficiency detergent into a machine. His smile is two parts relief, one part skeptic. Afterall, he survived the Ice Storm of 2008; he knows how it feels to wear four layers of outerwear while dreaming of a world in which his electric meter spins. “Yeah, we lost everything in our fridge, and the kids have been staying with relatives. Today, we really needed clean clothes.”
At a nearby dryer, Walter Johnson, also of Chester, is processing the family's bedsheets and blankets. After four days of making due with what little they had left to work with, Johnson finally drove into Derry to find a wireless Internet connection and get some actual work done. Laundry was also on his to-do list.
Meanwhile, the Public Works crews were making rounds to survey the damage and debris and hatch a plan for cleaning up the piles of hefty tree trunks and toppled limbs, all byproducts of Thursday night's violent storm, which initially knocked out electric service to more than 300,000 residents across the state, and leaving 79 percent of Derry in the dark.
As of yesterday, there were still about 2,500 Derry residents waiting for Public Service of New Hampshire to restore power. More than two dozen crews were still working on repairs in town, said Ray Brown, spokesman for the town's emergency management team.
Derry Cooperative School District announced plans to reopen schools today, but not all bus routes would be up and running.
Basic services for residents in need, including water and shelter, will remain in place as long as there is a need, including a temporary shelter at Londonderry High School. In addition, there are two places in town where residents can go for a shower or to grab something to eat, no charge – the Workout Club and Wellness Center on Manchester Road from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Planet Fitness, open 24 hours.
Since power was restored yesterday at Derry Public Library it was designated as a warming shelter. Residents can stop in anytime between 9:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. to use the bathroom, have continental breakfast fare or a sandwich, said librarian Cathy Goldthwaite, who was sympathetic to those still without power yesterday – because she was one of them.
“Actually, our power came back on Scenic Drive at about 1 p.m.,” said Goldthwaite.
She said foot traffic through the doors was brisk yesterday – especially with the addition of school kids, who had Monday off as officials worked hard to make all roads passable for buses.
On a personal note, she learned that being powerless, while inconvenient, isn't all bad. In some ways, it reminds a community of what it means to be a community.
“We have a generator, which heated our house, but we made several trips to Beaver Lake to get gallon jugs of water to flush our toilet,” Goldthwaite said."But it gave us a chance to get out and talk to other neighbors and compare notes. Friends invited us for dinner and to use their shower, which was nice – and much appreciated,” Goldthwaite said. “It's nice to know when you're in need there are people right there ready to help.”