Homes and dreams drown as waters rise in Northeast
CRANSTON, R.I. – Flooding on a scale rarely seen in New England forced hundreds of residents from their homes and businesses Wednesday, overwhelmed sewage systems and isolated communities as it washed out bridges and rippled across thoroughfares from Maine to Connecticut.
As three days of record-breaking rains tapered to a drizzle, forecasters warned the worst of widespread flooding was still ahead as rivers and streams had yet to crest — for the second time in a month.
In Rhode Island, which bore the brunt of the storm, residents were experiencing the worst flooding in more than 100 years. Stretches of , the main route linking Boston to New York, were closed and could remain so for days. Amtrak suspended some trains on its busy routes in the area because of water over the tracks.
Every resident of Rhode Island, a state of about 1 million, was asked to conserve water and electricity because of flooded sewage systems and electrical substations. Rising waters either stranded hundreds of people or sent them to shelters. Many of those who stayed behind appeared shell-shocked, still recovering from floods two weeks ago caused by as much as 10 inches of rain.
Angelo Padula Jr.'s auto restoration shop in West Warwick, Padula and Son Used Auto, stood in 10 feet of water from the — after 100 years in business, its likely death knell, Padula said.
"I think we're all done," he said. "If the federal government doesn't give us disaster money, I don't think we can ever come back from this. You're talking millions and millions of dollars in these businesses. Now I know how the people in New Orleans felt."
The flooding caps a month that set rainfall records across the region. Boston measured nearly 14 inches for March, breaking the previous record for the month, set in 1953. New Jersey, New York City and Portland, Maine, surpassed similar records. Providence registered its rainiest month on record, period, with a total of more than 15 inches of rain in March.
Gov. Don Carcieri called the flooding "unprecedented in our state's history." President Barack Obama had issued an emergency declaration late Tuesday for Rhode Island, ordering federal aid for relief and authorizing the to coordinate efforts.
Monica Bourgeois, 45, cried Wednesday morning as she stood outside her home in Cranston, where a sewer pump station gave out and hundreds of residents had evacuated by early Wednesday. The Pawtuxet had turned her lawn into a lake and flooded her basement with six feet of still-rising water.
"I have absolutely no idea how we're going to pay for this," she said. "I'm extremely, extremely worried. Do you know how much a new furnace costs? We're just praying to God for some help."
Similar concerns plagued residents throughout New England. National Guard troops went into action in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and . A pond dam in Porter, Maine, let loose Tuesday morning, sending a torrent of water down country roads but injuring no one. Water covered roads in New Hampshire.
Stonington, Conn., a coastal town on a peninsula, was largely cut off as two of its three bridges went out. A bridge also gave out in Freetown, Mass., isolating about 1,000 residents.
Non-essential state workers in Rhode Island were given the day off, and state officials asked schools and private businesses to consider closing, as well. Officials in Warwick, where a water and sewage treatment plant failed, asked residents not to launder clothes or flush toilets. The state also asked people to stay off highways and local roads.
In Connecticut, the muddy earth beneath a Middletown apartment complex parking lot gave way, leaving two buildings teetering over the ravine of a river. Residents were taken to an emergency shelter at a high school.
Authorities also evacuated 50 units at a condominium complex in Jewett City in eastern Connecticut because a sewage treatment plant next door was under at least 4 feet of water.
In Massachusetts, the biggest concerns were in the southeastern part of the state, where a highway was closed. Heavy rains buckled a road in Fall River, near the Rhode Island border.
In Peabody, north of Boston, a court closed Wednesday because flooding made it inaccessible. Some residents there evacuated. Downtown businesses piled sandbags at their front doors and nearby streets were closed.
Demetri Skalkos, co-owner of McNamara's liquor store, said about three feet of water stood in the basement. He said he was worried about losing business over the traditionally busy Easter period.
"This is the Holy Week," he said. "... If we don't do business now, when are we going to do business?"
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Bob Salsberg in Boston, Michelle R. Smith in Providence and Clarke Canfield in Portland.