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New England faces more spring flooding

25,000 homes sustained flood damage.

BY SUSAN KIM | Randolph, MA | March 30, 2001

"Rivers can't carry the water out to sea and that can cause water to rise locally very quickly."

—Joe Grimmig

Friday's rain and warmer temperatures, arriving in conjunction with seasonal snowmelt and ice jams, have brought serious flooding potential to Maine, according to forecasters.

Emergency management officials are encouraging residents who live near the Androscoggin, Kennebec, Piscataquis, and Penobscot rivers to develop flood response plans. "When the snow melts quickly, or ice jams form, the rivers can't carry the water out to sea and that can cause water to rise locally very quickly," said Joe Grimmig, communications officer for the Maine Emergency Management Agency. The U.S. Coast Guard was already responding Friday by attempting to break up forming ice jams.

Meanwhile Massachusetts is recovering from recent flooding. Gov. Paul Cellucci has requested that President Bush declare a major disaster for Essex, Middlesex, and Norfolk counties after heavy rain flooded those areas March 22 and afterward.

It is estimated some 25,000 homes received damage from the flooding in the affected counties. Of that number, it is projected at least 15 percent received major damage (in excess of $10,000).

Seven inches of rain fell on top of 2-4 inches of snowmelt water, said Peter Judge, public information officer from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, resulting in "very serious flooding."

Some rivers and creeks broke record highs, he said.

At least some residents were prepared for the deluge because they had been hit with flooding in the past. The All Saints Episcopal Church in Belmont -- a community that saw nearly seven inches of rain -- this year installed a drainage system. "We had been hit continuously with flood damage," said Cathy Zolner, parish administrator. "There was repeatedly a mini river floating through the rectory basement, causing damage and health problems. In addition, we have a spring that runs through the middle of the parking lot and we're at the base of a hill."

Even with this record-breaking rain, All Saints took in no water, she added.

"March came in like a lion -- and stayed there," said Judge.

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