Rains, Floods Place Southern New England In State Of Emergency

May 15, 2006

More than five straight days of rain have flooded homes, businesses and roads, swelled riverbanks and placed a number of dams in southern New England under strain.

The governors of Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire have declared states of emergencies.

The National Weather Service is predicting flooding, in some cases record levels, could continue until the end of the week. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney activated the National Guard, while Governor John Lynch declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire and Governor John Baldacci of Maine issued a similar order for the state’s southern York County.

In Massachusetts, roads including parts of busy Route 1 were closed and homes in Peabody, Gloucester and Melrose were evacuated.

In New Hampshire, the state said about 100 people were evacuated from their homes in Wakefield because of concern over the Union Village and Semens dams. In Milton, officials reported a railroad culvert and embankment washed out, with train tracks suspended in mid air.

The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook for northern Connecticut, central Massachusetts, eastern Massachusetts, northeast Massachusetts, southeast Massachusetts, western Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire, central Rhode Island, northern Rhode Island and southern Rhode Island.

The weather experts report that this flood episode is expected to exceed the October 1996 event in some communities, and some stream and river flooding may be the worst since 1936 or 1938 at some locations.

Area-wide small stream flood warnings remain in effect for much of northern and eastern Massachusetts and Hillsborough county in southwest New Hampshire. River flood warnings are in effect for nearly all rivers across northern and eastern Massachusetts, interior Rhode Island and southern New Hampshire, with moderate to major flooding anticipated.

The areas of greatest concern currently are the Merrimack Valley of northeast Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire where storm total rainfall amounts of 10 to 15 inches are likely by Monday morning.

Across northern and central Rhode Island, and central and southeast Massachusetts, small stream flooding is also possible with storm total rainfall of 3 to 6 inches.

A persistent easterly flow has built seas to 10 to 15 feet over the eastern outer waters off the Massachusetts east coast. These high seas may result in minor splashover along the more vulnerable shore roads around the time of the early Monday morning high tide, according to weather officials.

The weather forecast suggests little improvement in the days ahead. Monday through Saturday another round of steady rain could arrive. As the week progresses, officials say there are two areas of concern where the rainfall could be heavier. One area is northern Connecticut and the Connecticut Valley region of Massachusetts, where embedded thunderstorms may result in some stream basins receiving 2 to 3 inches of rain. A flood watch has been issued for the Connecticut River Valley.

A second area of concern is eastern Essex county in Massachusetts where there could be a few hours of heavier rain late Monday night into Tuesday morning. This could result in an additional 1 to 2 inches of rain in 3 hours for this area, but the confidence is not that high.

In addition, there is a risk of strong to severe thunderstorms and localized flash flooding during Tuesday afternoon. Conditions look favorable for thunderstorms to develop Tuesday afternoon, and a few of the storms could contain large hail and damaging winds. Since the ground is so saturated, a few of the thunderstorms could also produce localized flash flooding.

After Tuesday, there are chances of showers in the forecast, but amounts are expected at this time to be relatively light or scattered.

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