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Record rainfall, flooding force evacuations in Northeast

Flooding caused by record rainfall over the Northeast on Wednesday washed out bridges in Connecticut and Massachusetts, disrupted travel across the region as some rivers reached their highest levels ever and prompted Rhode Island officials to temporarily close state offices.

The flooding in Rhode Island was the state’s worst in 100 years, said Marcie Katcher of the National Weather Service. The Pawtuxet River crested at a record 20.7 feet Wednesday afternoon, shattering the previous mark of 14.9 feet on March 15. Floodwaters spilled across the communities of Cranston, Warwick and West Warwick.

In Warwick, water came close to covering cars in the parking lot of the 70-store Warwick Mall. A small boat motored through the water to pick up a mall security guard who had failed to leave earlier. Ducks paddled serenely along streets that were under 2 feet of water.

Although the storm drifted eastward and dry weather was forecast for the next few days, water trickling down from higher elevations kept rivers swollen. Flooding remained a problem.

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Joe Macomber, 27, of Warwick said parking lots near his apartment on the Pawtuxet River looked “like the ocean. . . . You could have gotten swept away.”

Overnight Tuesday, the Pawtuxet River flooded onto Interstate 95, defeating sand-bagging efforts and forcing closures of sections of the highway.

No deaths were reported from the rain, which set records in several cities for the month of March. Providence, R.I., measured nearly 15 inches; Boston had nearly 14 inches; New York City’s Central Park had more than 10.5 inches.

“Nothing we can do with Mother Nature. Nothing we can do,” said Maria Rivera of Clinton, Mass., along the Nashua River, where National Guard troops were deployed earlier in the week to fill sandbags.

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More than 900 Guard troops were deployed in Massachusetts, and several hundred more fanned out across Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The southeastern Connecticut town of Stonington, along the Pawcatuck River, lost two of its three bridges, and a bridge also gave out in Freetown, Mass. Officials evacuated hundreds of people from Coventry, R.I., where another bridge was threatened. There were fears that a collapse of the bridge or of buildings at either end of it could send debris washing downstream into homes.

At one point during the storm, about 10,000 Rhode Island customers were without power, said David Graves, a spokesman for National Grid, the primary power and gas company in New England.

He said some neighborhoods were so flooded that it would not be safe to turn the power back on.

“This is the one in every 100- or 150-year flood,” Graves said.

There was one silver lining to the wet weather in Rhode Island: The Internal Revenue Service said state residents would have until May 11, instead of April 15, to file federal income taxes.

That was little comfort to residents and business owners enduring their second inundation since mid-March.

tina.susman@latimes.com

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nicole.santacruz@latimes.com


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