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Boston Breaks March Rainfall Record

Water builds up along a bridge near Brookline Avenue in the Longwood area in Brookline. (Gabrielle Levy for WBUR)
Water builds up along a bridge near Brookline Avenue in the Longwood area in Brookline. (Gabrielle Levy for WBUR)

As the city of Boston has shattered an all-time rainfall record for the month of March, the Massachusetts National Guard is assisting voluntary evacuations of more than 100 residents living around the rain-swollen South Wattupa Pond in Fall River.

A city official says six inches of rain over the past two days brought water levels 2 1/2 feet above normal on the pond, flooding some homes.

Shelters have been set up at two nearby schools.

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency spokesman Peter Judge says more than 40 National Guardsmen have been sent to Fall River, and state environmental police have sent three boats. Gov. Deval Patrick also is planning to visit the area Tuesday afternoon.

Small numbers of people were also evacuated from Lakeville and Freetown earlier Tuesday.

Judge says flood warnings are posted throughout the state, but the flooding remains localized.

"We're not expecting any large-scale, you know, the east-side-of-town-type of evacuations," Judge said, "but more areas are going to see some flooding as we saw with the last storm as well."

A bench is nearly submerged at the edge of the Clay Pit Pond in Belmont. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A bench is nearly submerged at the edge of the Clay Pit Pond in Belmont. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Patrick said he may extend the state of emergency he declared on Monday.

Patrick said Tuesday that the state has had "two 50-year storms in the course of two or three weeks" which is "unheard of."

He warned that because the ground is saturated it won't absorb rain waters, making the runoff stronger and the current in rivers and streams more dangerous.

The National Weather Service said that as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, nearly 13 inches of rain had fallen on the city during the month. Up to 2 1/2 inches of additional rain is expected by the evening.

The previous record for March was 11 inches in 1953.

Forecasters said it was also the fourth wettest of any month since records were kept starting in 1872.

As a result of the pounding rain, General Joseph Carter, of the state's National Guard, said guardsmen have filled 8,500 sandbags and transported them to communities including Lexington, Tewksbury, Bridgewater, Millbury and Littleton.

Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Rick Sullivan says his agency has concerns about 39 dams throughout Massachusetts. He says DCR has 30 inspectors on the ground Tuesday, providing constant updates. Sullivan says Monday night on the Charles River, 680 million gallons of water were pumped during an 18-hour cycle.

Water puddles up by the Mystic River in Everett.  (Gabrielle Levy for WBUR)
Water puddles up by the Mystic River in Everett. (Gabrielle Levy for WBUR)

"We are moving a lot of water through this system," Sullivan said. "And in terms of flood control, we're confident that we can handle the capacity there, but as mother nature gives us probably another couple inches of rain (Tuesday), we're watching the water levels."

Sullivan says the biggest concern is the privately owned Forge Pond Dam in Freetown. Several personnel are on the scene monitoring the situation. DCR is planning a controlled breach of that dam to alleviate stress, but that cannot be done until next week.

Conditions may even be worse in Rhode Island, where Gov. Don Carcieri on Tuesday afternoon asked residents to get home by dinnertime to avoid what officials expect to be the worst flooding to hit the state in more than 100 years.

"The worst is still ahead of us," he said during a broadcast carried live on the state's major TV stations. "We're in a serious, serious situation."

Providence, R.I. had received about 7.2 inches of rain from the current storm as of 10 a.m., pushing the monthly rainfall total to 14.7 inches. Forecasters said the city was on track to break its all-time monthly record of 15.38 inches, set in October 2005.

The weather has caused a run on basement sump pumps at the state’s hardware and home improvement stores.


Jim Tatarczuk, manager of Amesbury Industrial Supply Co. Inc., tells The Newburyport News his store would normally stock about 130 pumps for the spring, but he has sold nearly double that already.

“There are people who are still pumping out from the old storm, and now we have more on its way,” he said.

President Obama has declared seven Massachusetts counties major disaster areas, freeing up federal aid to residents and households for damages caused severe storms and flooding that began March 12.

The disaster declaration covers Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk and Worcester counties. But all counties in the state are also eligible to apply for assistance under the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

WBUR's Steve Brown contributed reporting.

This program aired on March 30, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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