Globe staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter
The third heavy storm of this month’s massive rains prompted Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today to declare a statewide state of emergency for the second time this month and activate National Guard units to stem the damage of more flooding in an already waterlogged state.
The governor’s move came as President Obama today responded to Patrick’s request last week for aid by declaring the state a disaster area, opening the door for federal funding to flow into Massachusetts.
Patrick said that the president’s action will make financial assistance available to individuals and businesses hardest hit by the most recent flooding.
"I am thankful to President Obama for recognizing the havoc the storm and flooding has inflicted on communities across the Commonwealth," Patrick said in a statement. "Now that our request for a disaster declaration has been granted, critical federal aid can reach the individuals, families, and businesses that need it the most."
In an afternoon press conference, Patrick said 700 National Guardsmen would be deployed by daybreak, with the potential for up to 1,000 if needed, to assist with relief efforts. He did not call for any specific evacuations, but he warned residents of flood zones to "closely monitor the storm" and prepare for the possibility of swift evacuation.
"These are very dangerous conditions, and they will be during the rainstorm, and after the rain stops," he said at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters in Framingham.
Patrick said all rivers in the state are in danger of flooding, including the Charles in Dover; the Blackstone in Northbridge; the Neponset in Norwood; the Sudbury in Saxonville; the Assabet in Maynard; and the Shawsheen in Wilmington.
Patrick said the state is closely monitoring 25 dams for signs of excessive stress. The Globe reported Sunday that 60 “high hazard’’ dams, whose failure would cause serious property damage and potential loss of life, are in poor condition and about half of those dams have not been inspected in the past two years as required by state law.
US Senator John F. Kerry and the entire Massachusetts congressional
delegation had urged the president last week to support the state’s
application for help.
"I’m incredibly grateful to President Obama for his swift disaster declaration. Now we can get assistance to those who need it most."
As of late this afternoon, more than 11 inches of rain had fallen in Boston this month, making it the rainiest March on record and breaking the city’s record set in March 1953, said Walter Drag, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton.
‘‘The worst of the rain from this storm will take place Tuesday morning at rush hour and through the afternoon," Drag said. "This is a major rainstorm. Everything that got flooded in the last storm will reach or exceed those levels by Tuesday. Damage will probably be excessive."
Between 2 and 3 inches of rain fell today, and another 3 inches are expected before the storm tapers off Wednesday.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino activated the city’s Emergency Operations Center today and said emergency shelters were on standby. Menino said he was concerned about flooding in all residential areas as high tide approached at midnight.
"We are closely monitoring areas of concern across the city and making areas that have been particularly vulnerable to flooding a priority," he said in a statement. "We have deployed teams and increased staff, putting measures in place to help protect our residents and neighborhoods and minimize flooding and damages from this storm."
Peter Judge, a spokesman for the state emergency management agency, said state officials were monitoring the flooding threat and the pressure on the region’s dams.
"It looks like all of the rivers of any consequence are going to be above minor flood level, if not major flood level stage, when this is all over," he said.
Homeowners and business owners affected by the recent flooding should be on alert. "Unfortunately, the places worst hurt last time are going to be hurt this time as well," he said.
Officials at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority said they were watching water levels and hoped to avoid having to release more sewage into Boston Harbor, which they did during the last major storm. The release upset officials in Quincy, where the bay may have been affected.
"The flows are just starting to ramp up, but we’ll be ready," said Ria Convery, a spokeswoman for the MWRA. "All our facilities are operational. We’ll handle it as best we can."
A spokesman for Rhode Island’s Emergency Management Agency said the state was facing a "very serious" and potentially devastating flood situation along the Pawtuxet River.
White House officials also announced today that the president also declared a major disaster in the Rhode Island and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms and flooding beginning on March 12. The president’s action made federal funding available to individuals in the counties of Kent, Newport, Providence, and Washington.
In Littleton today, workers were repairing damage to a culvert that had caused flooding in a pond off Route 119 and forced some people to leave their homes. Also near the culvert, flooding covered a rail line.
Mike Ackroyd-Kelly, co-owner of Littleton Agway, a farming and pet supply store near the culvert, said customer traffic had slowed because of detours on the road that were set up for the work crew.
"We’re positive that [the workers will] eventually fix everything, so we’re keeping the faith," he said.
Speaking in Framingham, Patrick said the state was monitoring a flood on Storrow Drive that had backed up traffic, but he said there were no injuries or serious damage to report as of last evening.
He said the National Guardsmen had delivered thousands of sandbags statewide, and their equipment would be located in areas where they would most likely be needed to help deliver flood aid.
Along with the rain, winds gusted up to 40 miles per hour.
A chance of showers will remain Wednesday, but low pressure from North Carolina will meander just south of New England until it pushes eastward for drier weather to take its place late Wednesday, said Alan Dunham, another meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Temperatures should reach the 50s.
"It looks like it’s going to be dry for a bit, at least through the weekend," Dunham said.
Jason Tuohey, Milton Valencia, John Ellement, and Travis Anderson of the
Globe staff and Globe correspondent Shana Wicket contributed to this
report. David Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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