Rain brings more flooding to storm-weary East Coast; RI gov. warns of worst flood in 100 years

By Eric Tucker, AP
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

RI gov. warns of 100-year flood as storm continues

CRANSTON, R.I. — The second major rainstorm of the month pounded the Northeast on Tuesday, pushing rivers over their banks, closing roads and schools, prompting evacuations, and shattering at least one rainfall record.

Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri asked residents Tuesday afternoon to get home by dinnertime to avoid traveling in what officials expect to be the most severe flooding to hit the state in more than 100 years.

“The worst is still ahead of us,” he said during a broadcast carried live on the state’s major TV stations. “We’re in a serious, serious situation.”

National Guard troops were activated in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, where neighborhoods still recovering from earlier flooding were again swamped after two days of unrelenting rain.

A storm two weeks ago dropped as much as much as 10 inches of rain on the same region. Although the rain tapered off in many areas Tuesday afternoon, forecasters said the region’s rivers might not crest until Wednesday or even Thursday.

The National Weather Service said that by Tuesday afternoon, Providence had recorded more than 15 inches of rain for the month, becoming the rainiest of any month on record, breaking a mark set in 2005. Boston also set a record for the month of March, topping a mark set in 1953, with nearly 14 inches of rain. It is now the second rainiest month since record keeping began in 1872.

New Jersey and parts of New York City also set March records, and Portland, Maine, was approaching one.

Hundreds of people across Rhode Island evacuated their homes. Scattered evacuations were reported in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and officials in New Hampshire warned residents in flood-prone areas to prepare to leave. No injuries had been reported in those states from the storm as of Tuesday evening.

In one water-weary neighborhood along the Pawtuxet River in Cranston, basements were flooded and water at the end of one street was waist deep. One resident hung a sign: “FEMA + State + City of Cranston. Buy our houses.”

Brian Dupont, a real estate broker who owns two homes on the street, said Tuesday morning that he worried the water would rise to the first floors.

“Right now it’s bad and getting worse,” said Dupont, who with his son put down 30 sandbags around the properties but was not sure how effective they would be.

“We’ve got a saying, ‘Its like trying to shovel against the tide.’ It’s terrible, terrible,” said Dupont, who was afraid the home might now be unsellable.

Standing water pooled on or rushed across roads in the region, making driving treacherous and forcing closures.

Interstate 95, a major East Coast thoroughfare, was flooded down to one lane in some areas of Rhode Island for the Tuesday afternoon commute. Flooding was also reported on other major routes and ramps throughout the region, closing a heavily traveled section Route 24, which links eastern Rhode Island to the Boston area.

Amtrak said some trains through Rhode Island and Connecticut were delayed because of high water on the tracks, and passengers on commuter trains between Providence and Boston had to board buses for part of the way because of flooding.

In New York City, a mudslide caused some interruptions on a commuter rail line in the Bronx. Airports including LaGuardia and Kennedy in New York and Newark Liberty in New Jersey also reported weather-related delays.

In Maine, a dam in Porter let loose Tuesday morning, sending a torrent of water down country roads. One road ended up covered with 2 feet of water, but no evacuations or injuries were reported.

North of New York City, a man in his 70s drove past a barricade onto a flooded section of the Bronx River Parkway and had to be rescued from the roof of his truck, Westchester County police said. On Long Island, rain coupled with tides inundated a 20-mile stretch of oceanfront road in Southampton.

The rain also caused a run on basement sump pumps at hardware and home improvement stores.

Jim Tatarczuk, manager of Amesbury Industrial Supply Co. Inc., told The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass., his store would normally stock about 130 pumps for the spring, but he has sold nearly double that already.

“There are people who are still pumping out from the old storm, and now we have more on its way,” he said.

President Barack Obama issued disaster declarations for many areas of New England to free up federal aid to residents and households for damages caused by late winter and early spring storms. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Bob Salsberg in Wayland, Mass., Stephen Singer and Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Conn., Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine, and Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J.

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