RIPR News
9:30 am
Thu April 1, 2010

Warwick, Cranston hit hard by flooding

Providence, RI – Three days of steady rain caused the Blackstone River to swell dramatically - sending waves of water crashing down Valley Falls in the town of Cumberland, just north of Providence. About a dozen people watched in awe.

Among them, Laurie Lefebvre of Cumberland, who was stunned by the sight.

"This might impress some of these young guys out here that don't underestimate mother nature," she said. "Mother of all mothers."

By yesterday the Blackstone had crested at 15 feet - and caused only minor flooding. But the situation was much more serious to the south, where the Pawtuxet River crested at a record of more than 20 feet. The high water shut down parts of Interstate 95 - which links Boston and New York - and it will likely remain closed for days to come. Yesterday schools and government offices were closed for business, and this morning roads and some neighborhoods remain submerged.

"We're setting new records as we speak," Governro Caricieri said. "We have set an all-time record for rainfall in the month of March - over 16 inches of rain in our state. This is historic in our state."

Indeed, the flooding ends a month of unprecedented rainfall across the northeast. Boston, New Jersey, New York City and Portland, Maine all recorded record rainfalls for the month of March. And here in Rhode Island, residents will need at least a few days to dry out.

In the city of Cranston, David Alviano is using a wet-vac to suck up the water in his basement, which has leather furniture, children's toys and a new tile floor.

"Just remodeled it about a month ago.," he said. "All new furniture, all the kids toys are soaking wet. All the new rugs, they're all trash."

Alviano says he's been fighting a losing battle against the water since Tuesday morning.

"But it just keeps coming," he said "It doesn't stop. It just keeps coming. Even now it's still coming through the floor. The ground's saturated and it's got nowhere to go and it's just pushing through every little crack it can find."

Those without wet-vacs or sump-pumps have as much as six feet of water in their basements. And outside Alviano's house, the rain-swollen Pawtuxet River turned many lawns into lakes. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung says 140 homes have been evacuated, and that city workers been working without a break since Monday.

"Sand-bagging, making sure the residents have access to sandbags," Fung said. "My fire department is exhausted. They've been on the go with a lot of rescues, moving people out of their homes. My police are exhausted - so it has a big impact on all the services that we provide."

And then in a cruel irony, a state that has seen nothing but rain and water for days is being asked to conserve water. That's because the floodwaters are overwhelming sewage treatment plants in several cities and towns, including Cranston, where Mayor Fung is asking his residents to cooperate.

"We're asking them to try not to do their laundry," he said. "No dish-washing, try to limit toilet flow as much as possible - that can help out with conservation of water."

Elsewhere in the state, hundreds of people were evacuated from a neighborhood in Coventry, because of fears that a bridge upstream would collapse. That's just one of 185 bridges that civil engineers say they need to inspect. They'll be able to do that when the waters finally recede after some of the worst flooding that this state has seen in more than a century.