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A dismal start to the school year

Dueling storms descend on area, soaking students moving into dorms

BU freshman Rose Goldfarb (left) and her family dodged puddles on Bay State Road yesterday as they moved Rose’s belongings into her dorm room. Rainfall was as high as 5 inches in Eastern Massachusetts yesterday. BU freshman Rose Goldfarb (left) and her family dodged puddles on Bay State Road yesterday as they moved Rose’s belongings into her dorm room. Rainfall was as high as 5 inches in Eastern Massachusetts yesterday. (Joanne Rathe/ Globe Staff)
By Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / August 30, 2009

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Christine Cherell’s pink flip-flops splashed in puddles as she pushed an orange laundry cart overflowing with cardboard boxes filled with sheets, pillows, and “at least 50 T-shirts I’ll never wear’’ toward her Boston University dormitory on Bay State Road.

But she did not pack for the downpour yesterday as remnants from what was once Tropical Storm Danny dropped as much as 5 inches of rain on parts of Eastern Massachusetts. The South Coast was hit hardest, with New Bedford receiving 5.05 inches of rain, while on the Cape, Centerville and Falmouth got more than 4 inches.

In Boston, the city was doused with with 1.65 inches of driving rain yesterday as Cherell and other college students arrived on campus.

“If I had known it was going to be like this,’’ Cherell, 20, said, she might have considered trading in flip-flops for Wellingtons.

Soaking rains made for a gloomy start to moving-in day for thousands of college students returning to Boston-area colleges for a new academic year.

The threat of heavy rain prompted some BU students to move back to school early. About 55 percent of the estimated 4,000 freshmen had moved onto campus by Friday evening, said Colin Riley, a university spokesman.

“Some did come earlier than expected,’’ Riley said, noting there was only a single lane of traffic on Bay State Road yesterday. But he was philosophical about the deluge. “I don’t think the rain is as bad as moving in on a very hot, humid day.’’

Not in Cherell’s eyes. The past two years, she moved into her BU dorms under sunny skies. But yesterday, she had to cope not only with the rain, but with not having her mother to help her.

“I feel like calling her and saying, ‘See what happens when you don’t come?’ ’’ Cherell said.

As she reached the doorstep of the brownstone dormitory, Cherell spun the cart around and proclaimed, “Success!’’

Rose Goldfarb, a freshman from Long Island, N.Y., maneuvered a pair of orange laundry carts along Bay State Road. She made two trips, with one cart nearly tipping over as the rain fell.

“This isn’t how I thought it would be moving into college,’’ said Goldfarb, 18, who plans to study speech pathology.

Some students donned clear ponchos, while others huddled under umbrellas. They lugged tightly sealed boxes and clothes stuffed into trash bags. “I don’t think anything got too wet,’’ said Goldfarb, looking into her laundry cart.

The Goldfarbs left their home on Long Island at 6 a.m. in anticipation of the rain and road closings for the funeral of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

“We were more worried about the traffic for the Kennedy funeral than the rain,’’ said Milly Goldfarb, Rose’s mother.

Across town, students at Wentworth Institute of Technology and Massachusetts College of Art and Design along Huntington Avenue moved into dorms just blocks from where Kennedy’s funeral was celebrated at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Tremont Street. Some paused with their belongings as President Obama’s motorcade went past shortly after 1 p.m.

The funeral cast a pall over a day usually filled with excitement.

“It’s very sad,’’ said Tamala Williams, 18, a freshman at Wentworth, standing under an umbrella with a boxed lunch of grilled chicken under her left arm. “But I’m glad to see so many people come together for him.’’

Tropical Storm Danny weakened early yesterday and was downgraded to a tropical depression and then to a heavy rain storm, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flood watch that was lifted at 6 p.m. last night.

As of 8 p.m. yesterday, there was only minor drainage problems south of Boston.

The heavy rain was caused by a combination of two weather systems. Danny, which weakened off the coast of New Jersey about 5 a.m. yesterday, brought rain from the south, while a low-pressure system from the eastern Great Lakes brought rain from the west.

“We’re kind of at the squeeze play in between these two systems,’’ Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, said yesterday afternoon. “What we really have is an unorganized system of rainfall and thunderstorms.’’

The one-two punch prompted the Coast Guard to issue a high surf advisory, particularly for Cape Cod and the Islands, where the storm hit about an hour before Boston. “We expected high swells and rip currents, but we’ve had’’ no problems, said Petty Officer Andrew Case.

The threat of strong rip currents and rough seas prompted the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to prohibit swimmers from state-run beaches in Hull, Nahant, Revere, Salisbury, Westport, and Winthrop.

Public ferry service was canceled yesterday from Boston’s Long Wharf, Quincy, Hingham, and Hull to and among the Boston Harbor Islands, the agency said.

The widespread rain was moving out to sea last night. The thermometer in Boston today could reach 80 degrees.

“It looks to be rain free,’’ said Buttrick.

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com.