Hundreds Evacuated, Bridge Destroyed : New England Flooding Worst in 50 Years

From Associated Press

Flooding in New England forced hundreds of people from their homes, washed away a historic covered bridge and damaged two dams Wednesday, officials said.

Maine Gov. John R. McKernan Jr. declared a state of emergency as flooding described as the worst in a half century increased around the state.

"The water in a convenience store is right up to the ceiling, which I'd say is eight to nine feet off the ground, and it's still rising," regional police and fire dispatcher William Murray said of a store outside Plymouth, N.H.

The flooding was caused by melting snow and a storm that brought 50-m.p.h. winds and as much as five inches of rain, cutting power to thousands of residents after dumping more than a foot of snow Tuesday in the Ohio Valley.

Nursing Home Evacuated

At least 250 people were evacuated in Maine, including more than 100 who were moved from a nursing home in Canton by National Guard trucks, said David Brown, director of civil emergency preparedness.

A 75-foot section of earth washed away at the edge of a retaining wall near International Paper Co.'s hydroelectric dam in Livermore Falls, Me., company spokesman Dick Brophy said. Another hydroelectric dam, in the early stages of construction on the Androscoggin River at Lisbon, "is gone," a police officer said.

A historic covered bridge over the Piscataquis River was washed away at Guilford, Me. Central Maine Power Co. cut off power to the area for fear that live electric lines running over other bridges would be snapped if the spans washed out.

Breaks 1936 Record

Flooding forced the evacuation of City Hall in the state capital of Augusta. The Kennebec River was expected to crest at 21 feet above flood stage, three feet higher than during a record 1936 flood, the National Weather Service said.

About 75 families were evacuated in Plymouth, N.H., and about 60 people were evacuated in Claremont. Roads were closed in more than 60 places around New Hampshire, Ken Jollimore of the state Civil Defense said.

In Rochester, Vt., Brian Bissonette found his expensive DeLorean automobile afloat. "It's something they didn't include in the advertising," he said of the vehicle's buoyancy. "Actually, they float quite nicely."

Low temperatures were the problem in the South as records were broken or tied Wednesday in at least 40 cities from Texas to Florida and north to Maryland.

South Reports Cold

In Atlanta, the temperature dipped to 27, toppling a record that had stood since 1919. Macon, Ga., hit 29, its coldest on record for the month. Key West, Fla., the southernmost point in the continental United States, had a record 59.

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