- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

HAVERHILL, Mass. (AP) — Emergency crews boated along streets to rescue people trapped in their homes, and sewage systems overflowed yesterday as rain pounded New England for the fourth straight day in what could prove to be the region’s worst flooding since the 1930s.

The National Weather Service reported more than a foot of rain had fallen in some places by last night.

In the Merrimack Valley, north of Boston on the New Hampshire line, the Merrimack and Spicket rivers overflowed their banks and forced the evacuations of hundreds of people.

Firefighters warned roommates Erica Digaetano, 22, and Kelly Malynn, 23, to leave their first-floor apartment in downtown Haverhill. Water had filled the basement up to the ceiling and continued to rise.

“My landlord has an office under here, and everything is just floating in it,” Miss Digaetano said.

Tens of millions of gallons of sewage spilled into the Merrimack River after pipes burst in Haverhill on Sunday, and the flood threatened power at a regional treatment plant in Lawrence. A shutdown at that plant would force 115 million gallons of sewage into the river each day.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican.

Emergency crews in Lowell took to flooded streets in boats and used bullhorns to urge about 1,000 households to evacuate. Forecasters said the river could rise past 60 feet by last night, putting it at more than 8 feet above flood stage.

In Wakefield, Mass., about 15 miles north of Boston, Ralph Tucci watched nervously as shallow water in the front yard lapped near his front door.

“That’s what I have left — just 6 more inches,” said Mr. Tucci, 50, who spent $247 on a pump yesterday to try to protect his home. “The only thing I’ve got to do now is buy a boat,” he said jokingly.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, toured hard-hit Peabody, whose downtown northeast of Boston was flooded by the relentless rain. He labeled it “the worst flooding I’ve seen in 22 years in the Senate.”

A fast-moving storm was expected to bring as much as another 1 inches of rain early today, threatening to push the Merrimack, Spicket and other large rivers further over their banks and swamping entire neighborhoods. After that, drier weather is forecast.

In New Hampshire, more than 600 roads were damaged, destroyed or under water. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, said his own front yard in Hopkinton had become a pond.

Flooding forced the evacuation of St. Paul’s School in Concord. Floodwaters hit some dormitories and the library, health center, post office and performing-arts center at the exclusive preparatory school, which has students from around the world.

Dan Burke, who owns a backhoe, helped people in Rochester, N.H., get prescriptions and retrieve belongings from their homes after the city ordered the evacuation of nearly 2,000 homes downstream from a dam that appeared to be in danger.

“We’re just trying to help people get out, trying to get them at least on their way so they don’t have to lose everything,” Mr. Burke said.

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