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An Island In Freetown, For Now02:39
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A local fireman in Freetown watches crews from the Army Corps of Engineers try to restore Narrows Road, which was washed out by heavy rains. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)
A local fireman in Freetown watches crews from the Army Corps of Engineers try to restore Narrows Road, which was washed out by heavy rains. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)

Assonet Bay Shores, in Freetown, used to be a peninsula with the bay on one side and wetlands on the other.

But now it's an island. The only road connecting the 1,000-resident neighborhood with the rest of Freetown collapsed after the three-day rainstorm earlier this week flooded the area.

On Wednesday, crews from the Army Corps of Engineers were trying to shore up the two-lane road.

They couldn't work fast enough for Jennifer Dufresne. "We had to get some supplies," Dufresne said. "We couldn't go home last night. Yeah, it was bad."

She and her 14-year-old son, George, had to stay at a relative's place Tuesday night. They are now heading home, but they have to get there a different way than usual.

The Dufresne's neighbors walk down main street. A family of four, with backpacks on. Many residents are here on foot, carrying duffel bags large enough for pajamas and a change of clothes.

A flood washed out Narrows Road, the only street connecting a peninsula with the rest of Freetown. Residents have to board all-terrain vehicles operated by the state police to leave their neighborhood. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)
A flood washed out Narrows Road, the only street connecting a peninsula with the rest of Freetown. Residents have to board all-terrain vehicles operated by the state police to leave their neighborhood. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)

Jennifer and George pass a house with a washed-out driveway.The three cars parked there look like they were picked up and juggled around like dice.

Sure enough, Jennifer says, the night before a creek breached the road in front of the house and flooded their yard. "It was right through here, raging," she says.

The Dufresnes park their pickup at a grocery store distribution center. This is as far as they can take their car.

Now, they climb makeshift stairs into the back of an all-terrain vehicle operated by the state police. It looks more appropriate for a battlefield than suburban Massachusetts. Surrounded by grocery bags, they sit next to a neighbor, Samantha Downs.

"They always say, if you were stranded on a (deserted) island, what's the three things you would want?" Downs asks. "I have beer, I have cigarettes, I have milk. The necessities."

The ATV cuts across a baseball field that looks better for mud-wrestling than little league. Even with its special conveyor belt wheels, the vehicle has a hard time negotiating long stretches of deep mud.

We get to the peninsula-turned-island where their homes are located, and another strange sight comes into view.

"Is that the army?" asks Anne.

There are choppers overhead. George Dufresne is amazed.

"I have never seen something like this," George says, "Only in my video games."

“They always say, if you were stranded on a (deserted) island, what’s the three things you would want?” Downs asks. “I have beer, I have cigarettes, I have milk. The necessities.”-- Samantha Downs

"The hundred year flood," Anne concurs.

This trip took 25 minutes longer than it should have. And they still have two miles to walk before they get to their house.

As the Dufresne's leave the vehicle, a married couple turns up, looking to make the trip in reverse.

"All right, so you're running all day as needed?" asks Jennifer Biddle.

"Until they tell us to go," the driver answers.

Biddle and her husband, Clay, woke up Tuesday to a basement full of water. They started pumping it out immediately, and to make things easier they took their 18-month-old daughter to day care.

"But when we went to get her in the afternoon, the road had collapsed and we were unable to get her out," Jennifer says.

"It was very tough on (Jennifer)," Clay says, "The thought of being separated by that was not pleasant."

Luckily, Biddle's mother was able to rescue the little girl. Now the couple wants to pick her up, but it won't be easy. They would have to catch the the all-terrain vehicle to dry land in Freetown. Then, someone would have to pick them up, which is harder than usual because so many roads are closed.

"If I wanted to get to Dartmouth, how do I get there?" asks Jennifer.

A state police offer ventures an answer, which touches off a few minutes of debate. Several roads are flooded with water, and the open through-ways are deluged with traffic.

That's hardly comforting to Jennifer Biddle.

"The lack of information is very frustrating. We've been very lucky that we have electricity and Internet access — we lost it for a little while." Biddle says. "In fact, we almost know more than they do."

Officials say it is not clear when any of the flooded roads will be back up and running. But they have told residents to brace themselves for days of impassable roads and inconvenience.

This program aired on April 1, 2010.

Bianca Vázquez Toness Twitter Reporter
Bianca Vázquez Toness was formerly a report for WBUR.

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