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State of Emergency in Effect as New England Sees Significant Flash Flooding

"I've never seen anything like this."


That is a quote from Leominster Dean Mazzarella. Leominster was ground zero of Monday afternoon's sudden flash floods, and now face a long road to recovery. Very slow moving, nearly stationary downpours and thunderstorms sat over much of southern New England. Two pockets of torrential downpours sat over Leominster, Massachusetts and the Rhode Island, Massachusetts border.


Up to nine inches of rain has been reported in Leominster and over a half foot reported in North Attleborough. This has led to significant damage to cars, homes, buildings, roads and potentially dams. For comparison, just over nine inches was the highest reported amount in the Vermont floods in July.


The heavy rain began to fall just after four o'clock in Leominster and across southern New England. After hours of rainfall rates of up to three inches an hours, a rare flash flood emergency was issued for Leominster, Fitchburg, Lunenburg, Lancaster, Sterling,

Westminster, Shirley and Princeton.



Flash flood emergencies are rarely issued by the National Weather Service and are issued for "for exceedingly rare situations when extremely heavy rain is leading to a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from a flash flood is happening or will happen soon. Typically, emergency officials are reporting life-threatening water rises resulting in water rescues/evacuations."


All of that was going on Leominster and the surrounding communities. Heavy rain continued to fall through the entire afternoon and evening. Flood waters rose very quickly, trapping numerous motorists during the evening commute. Route 2 and route 117 were hit very hard by flooding, with countless cars stranded and swamped, in need of rescue. Cars were not only swamped, but some were pushed off the road entirely and partially buried in mud. Leominster is under a state of emergency.


Photos of Route 2 and a shopping plaza in Leominster Photos: Colton Flint


Most roads in the city were flooded. Roads weren't just swamped, but heavily damaged. Multiple sinkholes opened up in streets, including a significant one that opened up at the intersection of Pleasant Street and Colburn Street. Flood waters were pictured pouring into this hole. This sinkhole undermined a nearby home.



Another sinkhole at a car dealership on Main Street swallowed a handful of vehicles. The vehicles were piled up in the hole, along with piles of displaced bricks and running water.


Sinkhole on Pleasant Street in Leominster. Photo: Colton Flint


Many roads were washed out across the city. As of Tuesday morning, over a dozen remain closed, including a portion of Main Street.


A bridge caved in along Exchange Street in Leominster, stranding motorists at either end. This was a busy bridge, with officials stating that thousands used this bridge on a daily basis. Heavy damage occurred along Exchange Street, at one point, firefighters went door to door to evacuate residents.


A dam along Exchange Street is also facing "potential issues." Residents who did not evacuate last night are urged to do so this morning.



When darkness fell across the city, rescues and evacuations intensified. Trapped motorists waited on the roofs of their vehicles for rescue across the city. Officials came from nearby communities to help aid in helping residents.


Officials used rafts to transport residents and their pets from homes and cars to area hospitals, which were also seeing serious flooding.


Thankfully, officials have not reported any fatalities from the flooding across New England, although several minor injuries have been confirmed. Shelters have opened across Leominster for evacuees. As of Tuesday morning, over 100 residents are reported to be staying in them.


Significant damage to homes and businesses occurred as well as feet of flood waters pushed against the structures. Photos show partially damaged and collapsed buildings and homes, as well as rushing water breaking through doors and windows and pouring into businesses.


Public schools have also been reported to be damaged. Leominster Public Schools are closed Tuesday.




While Leominster was clearly ground zero of this flooding event, significant flooding occurred elsewhere in New England. The area along the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border was also hit hard with rain. At 9:30 at night, Attleborough officials ordered a shelter in place for the community.


Water rushed into at least a dozen homes, causing damage. Several rescues of stranded motorists occurred in Attleborough, North Attleborough and Foxborough. North Attleborough reported that officials recieved as many as 42 emergency calls within an hour.


Across the border, serious flooding also cropped up in Rhode Island, with Cumberland and Providence getting hit hard. More than two dozen residents were rescued along Branch Avenue in Providence.


People were not only trapped in their vehicles, but employees and customers were in need of rescue inside businesses in the area. Scenes similar to Leominster played out in Providence with officials lining up rafts to get people to safety.


Rescue rafts line up in Providence. Photo: Ryan Welch


The worst of the damage in Leominster will likely take months to repair, with much of the city facing weeks of cleanup.


More storms and downpours will be possible on Wednesday as a cold front crosses the region.



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