Flooding forces hundreds to flee in RI

March 30, 2010

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CRANSTON, R.I.—Hundreds of Rhode Islanders were evacuated, dozens of roads were closed and thousands were without power Tuesday night as the state experienced its worst flooding in decades.

Gov. Don Carcieri (kuh-CHEER'-ee) said that the Department of Transportation and State Police were building berms and sandbagging to try to keep Interstate 95 from flooding completely. Still, those efforts were not entirely successful and authorities closed southbound lanes from the exit 14 to exit 11 on Tuesday night. A few stretches were down to one lane because of the water.

Forecasters warned of continued major flooding along the Pawtuxet and Blackstone Rivers. The National Weather Service said rains dumped at least 5.17 inches in Providence by Tuesday night, and a total of 16.17 inches in March -- making it the wettest month since records have been kept in the city in 1905. The previous record for the wettest month was 15.38 inches set in October 2005. The previous record for March was 8.84 inches, set in 1983.

"We expect rivers and streams to be cresting later Tuesday night or during the day Wednesday, and the worst is yet to come as far as flooding is concerned," National Weather Service spokesman Neal Strauss said by telephone from regional headquarters in Taunton, Mass.

"None of us alive have seen the flooding that we are experiencing now or going to experience," Carcieri said Tuesday night. "This is unprecedented in our state's history."

Carcieri said there were major problems with the state's sewage treatment plants, including one in Warwick, which was completely inundated. Health Director David Gifford asked residents to conserve water because of problems with sewage backups.

National Grid also asked customers to conserve electricity for several days because some of its substations were knocked off line. Thousands of National Grid customers suffered outages statewide, with a spokesman saying the utility firm was planning to introduce rotating outages in Westerly so that residents could have some power.

State police said some car accidents with serious injuries had been reported around the state, but officials said no fatalities had been reported in Rhode Island as of Tuesday evening.

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