East Coast from Maine to Carolinas on flood alert as heavy rains threaten to topple records

By Bob Salsberg, AP
Monday, March 29, 2010

Heavy rain threatens to topple records in East

BOSTON — Nervous residents along the sodden East Coast watched rivers rise Monday as they braced for a new round of flooding — and the wettest March on record in some areas.

The National Weather Service posted flood warnings and advisories from Maine to the Carolinas as forecasts called for as much as 5 to 7 inches of rain over the next three days. The storm threatened to push already swollen rivers over their banks and add to the misery of homeowners still struggling to bail out flooded basements from other recent storms in the Northeast.

Ted Les, 76, and his wife, Blanche, 69, worried what would happen if rains caused any more damage to their home of 40 years in Clinton, Mass.

In the event of more damage, “we can’t live here anymore,” Les said. “We don’t know where we are going to go.”

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency Monday and mobilized as many as 1,000 National Guardsmen to assist in the event of major flooding.

“Residents of flood zones should closely monitor the storm and prepare for the possibility of evacuating quickly,” should waters rise, Patrick said.

Meteorologists warned of a possible “life-threatening” situation along the Pawtuxet River in Rhode Island, which reached flood stage Monday night, with heavy flooding by Tuesday afternoon.

“We have a very serious problem. This is turning out to be a nightmare,” said Steve Kass, spokesman for the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.

The storm hit as the Northeast continued to recover from a storm March 13-15 that dropped as much as much as 10 inches of rain, causing several rivers to rise and flooding basements throughout the region.

The rainiest March on record in Boston was 1953, when 11 inches fell during the month; nearly 10 inches had already fallen before the start of the latest storm.

New York City was within 3 inches of the March record of 10.54 inches set in 1983, and forecasters said the storm could easily eclipse that mark.

“Our ground is so wet it’s like pouring water into an already saturated sponge,” said Tony Sutton, commissioner of Emergency Services for Westchester County, N.Y., north of the city. “Thank God we’re not expecting real strong winds. That’s a break.”

Coastal flooding from rain and high tides was a concern on Long Island beaches. Workers were busy Monday trucking tons of sand to the eastern end of the popular Robert Moses State Park to battle erosion, state parks spokesman George Gorman said.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell opened the state’s emergency operations center Monday as flood warnings were posted along many rivers and streams throughout the state.

Road closures were reported Monday in several states, including New Jersey. Up to 2 inches of rain fell overnight on the state, and flood warnings were posted for urban areas and small streams in several counties.

Violent weather from the same system, including at least one tornado, was blamed for injuries to several people and damage to more than 30 homes Sunday night in the Carolinas. Two teenagers in North Carolina died after their car slid off a rain-slick road into a swollen creek.

The rain was tapering off in the Carolinas on Monday, but some flood watches remained.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Michelle Smith in Providence, Wayne Parry in Atlantic City, N.J., Clarke Canfield in Portland, Jim Fitzgerald in New York City, Russell Contreras in Boston, Dave Collins in Hartford, Conn., and Emery P. Dalesio in Raleigh, N.C.

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