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News / Nation & World

Heavy rain floods parts of Mass., R.I. flooding homes, eroding dams

By MICHAEL CASEY and KATHY McCORMACK, Associated Press
Published: September 12, 2023, 4:39pm

LEOMINSTER, Mass. — Heavy rainfall — nearly 10 inches in 6 hours — flooded parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with two communities declaring a state of emergency as water poured into homes and forced boat rescues of residents. Concern about a dam listed in poor condition led to more evacuations.

Weather officials described the rainfall as a “200-year event.”

More rain was in the forecast for today. Winds and flooding from Hurricane Lee were expected to affect Rhode Island, eastern Massachusetts, southeastern New Hampshire and central and coastal Maine during the weekend, forecasters said.

Up to 300 people were evacuated by Tuesday morning in Leominster, about 40 miles northwest of Boston, Mayor Dean Mazzarella said. That included residents of a high-rise apartment building and a nursing home. All schools were closed and two shelters were opened.

Mazzarella said the city has not seen such widespread damage since a hurricane in 1936. He said most buildings downtown flooded and some collapsed. Rail service into Boston also was disrupted.

“The storm stopped over us last night. It didn’t move for close to five hours. It had dumped 11 inches of rain,” Mazzarella said at a news conference Tuesday morning. Mazzarella said Leominster has 12 hills, “and obviously, from those hills comes the water.”

On Monday night, in a recording posted online, Mazzarella had urged people to “Find a high spot somewhere.” He said if there were any injuries they were minor.

Leominster’s director of emergency management Athur Elbthal said two dams out of 24 in the city sustained damage, but held. He said the city is working to reinforce them.

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