Bedford residents cope with Winter Storm Hercules

Hercules, the son of Zeus in Roman mythology, was known for his strength. He earned anew his reputation as winter storm Hercules, a massive storm event marked by wind, frigid temps and snow that struck a region of some 1,200 miles on Friday, Jan. 3. It tapered at its leisure. Some earthbound mortals fled indoors. Others braved the elements and the odds of arriving safely just about anywhere.

Bedford, Merrimack, Milford and scores of other towns endured the rigors. Work, play and many a student’s education was halted as schools closed, airports ceased operations and legions of workers from various streets departments fought to clear the highways.

According to the National Weather Service, some 3,000 flights nationwide were cancelled or postponed. There were around 100 million citizens in a swath spanning a distance from Indiana to Maine who were alerted to storm warnings and advisories. Snowfall in New Hampshire ranged to a foot or more. Drifts suffocated even the tallest garden gnome.

The fury eventually subsided and people refused to let its residue deter them from missions ranging from shopping trips to forays to the nearest sledding hill or ice skating pond. The library offered refuge for many looking for a book, a music CD or a DVD touting adventure, mystery or romance.

Bedford’s Kevin O’Leary relocated from Oregon around six months ago. He and his kids headed on Saturday for the Bedford Public Library. He was accompanied by his daughter, Jessie, 11, a fifth-grader at McKelvie Intermediate School, and his sons, Sam, 9, and Will, age 7 – students at Riddle Brook Elementary. All of them soon headed home with an array of reading materials.

“We’re making our weekly trip to the library,” O’Leary said. “It’s something we like to do and today was a good day to go.”

A few miles away, more strenuous activities were underway. An ice hockey game on an expanse of frozen slab alongside Nashua Road near Bedford High School drew a quartet of outdoorsmen intent on slapping around a puck or two.

Scott Costa, 16, a junior at Bedford High, cut across the ice at high speed. Ryan Tidwell, a 17-year-old guest from Massachusetts, was in high pursuit. Then came Scott’s brothers, Anthony Costa, 13, an eighth-grader at Ross A. Lurgio Middle School, and Patrick Costa, 9, an accomplished hockey player who attends Peter Woodbury School.

“All you have to do is bundle up to stay warm,” Ryan said. “Bundle up and bring plenty of pucks.”

Meanwhile, a popular sledding hill alongside the town pool was a sea of white snow vertically lined with meandering paths made by traditional sleds, plastic snow saucers, inflated inner tubes and a vintage toboggan made of polished wood topped with some upholstered seat pads.

It was the Detwiler family that brought the toboggan. Kate, Susan and Laura Detwiler are the daughters of longtime Bedford residents Chip and Judy Detwiler. Chip and Judy own the prized toboggan, a plaything for some 40 years. The sturdy transport that day bore, sooner or later, the happy burden of the daughters, the owners’ grandchildren and two sons-in-law. Loaded with youngsters or adults, the toboggan easily made its umpteen run in service to the family.

The hill attracted locals and visitors from elsewhere including Colorado. Klaus Derendorf, 3, and his brother, Sam, 8, along with their dad, came from Andover, Mass., to take advantage of the snowy hill. Merrimack’s Evan Carlson, 5, a Reeds Ferry School student, and his brother, Ryan, 13, a student at Merrimack Middle School, took turns on the hill. Their dad, Eric, said the best way to warm up is to go sledding.

Colorado resident Matt Schmitz, and his son, Nathan, 11, went sledding while in town visiting Nathan’s grandparents, Paul and Joanne Schmitz, longtime Bedford residents. The sledders live near the Colorado town of Boulder.

“Christmas in Colorado, it was maybe 60 degrees,” the elder Schmitz said. “The way it is here is the way it should be in winter.”

Bedford’s Michael and Jessica Caron watched as their daughter, Brooklynn, 5, a student at Memorial School, flew down the slope on her choice of a new tube or a new sled.

“I liked going fast,” Brooklynn said. “I went fast and I got snow in my face.”

Others in town, including Bedford’s Vani Kancherlapalli and her husband, Sekhar, donned warm coats and hats and headed for Bedford’s Target store to do some shopping. Vani said their two boys, Ajay, 13, a student at Ross A. Lurgio Middle School, and Aamit, 9, who attends Peter Woodbury School, went skiing in celebration of the chilly weather. Vani was surprised only by the strength of the wind.

Abby McCarthy, 22, of Bedford, cared little about the intermittent gusts that persisted on Sunday as she jogged along County Road near Meetinghouse Road. She was well layered in running clothes and had some music that helped keep a lively pace. McCarthy is a senior majoring at UNH in family studies.

“It’s a new year and I want to start running more,” McCarthy said. “I thought today would be gross but it wasn’t too bad. It’s good to go out and experiment – see how it goes.”

The spirit award on Sunday surely went to Bedford’s sixth-grade girls travel team, Bedford’s basketball players already were clad in red uniforms and basketball shorts as they arrived. The gym at Peter Woodbury School was the site of their clash against Hampstead Middle School’s travel team. A snowy crosswalk presented no problem for the Bedford team, as some offered piggy-back rides through the slush.

The alphabetical naming of storms for the 2013-14 season, according to The Weather Channel’s Winter Storm Central, enables broadcasters to differentiate one storm from another. A storm now can be pinpointed by name. Winter Storm Hercules, the “H” entry in the alphabetical list, will be followed by Ion, Janus, Kronos and Leon. Here’s hoping the storm following Leon, one called “Maximus,” is a maximum fizzle.