New England floodwaters recede, but danger remains

By ERIC TUCKER and PAT EATON-ROBB (AP)

WEST WARWICK, R.I. — Stacey Marcure thought she and her family had survived the worst of flooding two weeks ago, when no more than 5 inches of water seeped into her basement. Then she woke to a fresh burst of heavy flooding spurred by record-setting rainfall that caused havoc in this former mill town and much of the Northeast.
Her family made it out safely Tuesday morning, though her husband had to be rescued by boat after he returned to raise valuables to the top floor. Now she’s staying with relatives, unsure what will become of possessions such as her daughter’s first communion dress — or the home that had been in her family for 70 years.

“It’s definitely not going to be livable, at least not for a while,” said Marcure, 38, a teacher’s assistant.

The rains stopped Wednesday and the floodwaters began to recede in hard-hit Rhode Island, though what the governor called the worst flooding in 200 years could persist for several days and permanently close businesses already struggling in the weak economy.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to travel to Rhode Island on Friday to assess the damage, a department official told The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the trip hadn’t been formally announced.

The latest flooding there was far worse than an inundation earlier this month in the same areas, and the ripple effects were vast and still being tallied: Hundreds were forced from their homes and thousands of properties lost power. Bridges and highways were washed out from Maine to Connecticut and sewage systems were overwhelmed to the point that families were asked to stop flushing toilets.
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Homes and cars were submerged along the banks of the Pawtuxet River, which flooded several blocks past its banks in many spots and crested Wednesday at 20.79 feet — 12 feet above its ordinary level of 9 feet.

Water flowed like a torrent around the Warwick Mall, with rapids encroaching outside an Old Navy and Macy’s. Oil slicks floated on top of muddy water through neighborhoods.

Stonington, Conn., a coastal town on the Rhode Island border, was largely cut off as two of its three bridges went out. A bridge also gave out in Freetown, Mass., isolating about 1,000 residents. In Coventry, R.I., the abutments on a two-lane bridge had washed out, and officials continued to monitor it Thursday for potential collapse.

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