Rain, swelling rivers threaten New England - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Rain, swelling rivers threaten New England

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Posted: Monday, May 15, 2006 6:35 am | Updated: 4:22 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

PEABODY, Mass. - A four-day deluge has turned streets into rivers across New England, flooding homes up to their door knobs, forcing dozens of schools to close because the buses couldn't get through, and threatening dams and communities as rivers rise.

The rain was still falling Monday morning, and forecasters warned the worst was yet to come. The rain totals could hit 15 inches by afternoon, triggering the worst flooding in some areas since 1936, the National Weather Service said.

The Merrimack River, which chased more than 100 people from homes in Manchester, N.H., was more than eight feet over flood stage early Monday and rising, and the Charles and other large rivers could swamp entire neighborhoods if they spill their banks.

Just north of Massachusetts, fast-rising floodwater forced scores of families to flee homes near the Mousam River in Maine.

Yetta and Steven Chin and their three children awoke early Sunday when firefighters rang their doorbell in Lebanon, Maine, with a warning. Less than an hour later, the firefighters returned, telling the family they should evacuate immediately. The water in their one-story ranch-style house was chest high.

"We were just an average American family thinking about maybe a summer vacation this year and now we're homeless," Yetta Chin said from the fire station where her family took refuge. "We take turns crying, and we take turns trying to bolster each other."

Maine's governor declared a state of emergency in his southern most county, York County, and the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire also declared states of emergency Sunday, freeing up aid and the help of the National Guard.

In York Beach, Maine, kayakers paddled down a main street where yellow police tape blocked off part of the downtown, and firefighters in a boat were going from building to building, making sure that propane tanks were shut off.

In New Hampshire, more than 600 roads were damaged, destroyed or under water, officials said.

"My back yard is an ocean," said Tom Johnson, of Salem, N.H. "It looks like the beach."

The flooding was so widespread in the suburbs north of Boston that at least three dozen school systems cancelled classes Monday. Even a stretch of heavily traveled U.S. 1 was shut down as commuters faced a web of detours.

Charley Ranen, one of about 300 people evacuated from a senior citizens' apartment complex in downtown Peabody took shelter at a high school.

"That's going to be tough on a lot of people," said Ranen, unsure how long some of his sickly neighbors could sleep on cots. "It's just a mess, I don't know what else to say. There were waves of water."

In Milton, N.H., all eyes were on a concrete dam on a pond that connects to the Salmon Falls River, which runs along the New Hampshire-Maine border. By Monday morning, officials said it was stable but being monitored. New England has had trouble in recent years with older dams failing under stress and has worked to shore up some of the worst.

Deb Gaudette and her family were among about 50 families that had to evacuate from Goffstown, N.H. She admitted she was having a tough Mother's Day, "but I have my kids, that's all I need," she said.

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