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Rhode Island and much of Northeast hit by historic floods, helped by emergency response

BOSTON — Emergency workers across the northeastern US made extraordinary efforts to protect residents as historic floods swept across the region.

With Rhode Island bearing the brunt of epic floods, no fatalities had been reported as of Wednesday in that state or surrounding ones.

Safety officials may not have built any arks, but the floods prompted actions on a host of other fronts:

  • National Guard troops were called into Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and in Connecticut they averted a hazardous mess by piling sandbags to keep a sewage treatment plant from becoming engulfed. “We narrowly averted a very bad situation,” Ken Sullivan, the utilities director of Jewett City, told the Norwich Bulletin.
  • Firefighters used inflatable boats to evacuate some residents in Cranston, R.I., and Red Cross workers helped provide shelter nearby for many displaced by the floods.
  • Emergency workers used backhoes and other equipment to keep residents of one section of Freetown, Mass., from being stranded as waters flowed over an access road.
  • State and local officials kept wary watch on potentially frail dams and bridges, ordering evacuations when they deemed them necessary. On Wednesday, officials in Coventry, R.I., ordered residents to leave one neighborhood out of concern that a nearby bridge on the Pawtuxet River might collapse.

Some flooding rivers will crest today, forecasters say.

“Most likely [part of interstate] 95 will still be closed tomorrow morning,” affecting Rhode Island commuters, Gov. Don Carcieri said Wednesday in a public appearance.

In parts of New England, rains have come in historic quantities this month, setting records or vying with big storms of the 1950s.

The storm tested the sturdy resolve for which New England residents are known. The floods damaged homes and businesses and interrupted some road and rail commutes in the region.

“People all over the state have got flooding issues in the basements and in their homes because the ground is so saturated,” Governor Carcieri said. “Unfortunately, that is going to continue.”

While forecasters warn that flooding could linger, the good news is that several days of clear weather are predicted – providing some opportunity for swollen rivers to begin clearing.

President Obama issued an emergency declaration Tuesday for Rhode Island, ordering federal aid including Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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