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New England hit by more rain, river flooding

Thirteen-year-olds Justine Johnson and Allie Walsh play tennis in flooded tennis court in Melrose
Justine Johnson, left, and Allie Walsh, both 13, didn't let flooding stop them from playing tennis in Melrose, Mass., on Monday.Brian Snyder / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Emergency crews used boats to rescue people trapped in their homes and sewage systems overflowed Monday 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 Monday 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 was still rising.

“My landlord has an office under here and everything is just floating in it,” 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,” Gov. Mitt Romney said.

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 Monday night, putting it at more than 8 feet over 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 six more inches,” said Tucci, 50, who spent $247 on a pump Monday to try to protect his home.

Kerrry tours Peabody
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., 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.”

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

The raging Merrimack threatened historic mill buildings in downtown Manchester. The buildings now house a wide assortment of businesses, restaurants and shops.

In Nashua, the overflowing river reached a condominium complex that is normally several hundred feet from its banks. Firefighters rescued about a dozen people and their pets by boat.

Flooding forced the evacuation of St. Paul’s School in Concord. Floodwaters hit some dorms, the library, the health center, post office and performing arts center at the exclusive prep 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 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,” Burke said.

In southern Maine, fast-rising floodwaters forced scores of families to flee homes near the Mousam River. Kayakers paddled down a main street in York Beach, where firefighters in a boat went building to building to make sure that propane tanks were shut off.

State officials said their chief concern was potential damage to two dams along the rain-swollen Salmon Falls River in Lebanon, where two areas were evacuated as a precaution.

Bush Maine home unaffected
Former President George Bush and his wife arrived at their summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, over the weekend, but the house was unaffected, said Jean Becker, Bush’s chief of staff.

A fast-moving storm early Tuesday was expected to bring as much as another 1½ inches of rain, threatening to push the Merrimack, Spicket and other large rivers further over their banks and swamping entire neighborhoods. After that, drier weather was forecast.

In the spring of 1936, torrential rain over 13 days caused flooding in New England that was blamed for 150 to 200 deaths.