New England Soaked by Days of Torrential Rains

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Heavy rains in New England have forced many residents from their homes because of rising rivers and flooded streets, and prompted authorities in the region to ask for help from the National Guard. Noah Adams talks to Sean Fitzgerald, chief of staff for the mayor of Peabody, Mass., about the situation in his town.

NOAH ADAMS host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Noah Adams. It has now been four days of rain for much of New England, especially along the Atlantic Coast. And in some towns, streets have been more like rivers. In Peabody, Massachusetts, dozens of homes have been flooded. Families have been evacuated, put into shelters.

We're joined now by Sean Fitzgerald, chief of staff for the mayor of that city. Mr. Fitzgerald, you've had 10 inches of rain in 24 hours. I saw a picture in USA Today of a boat in the street in your downtown. What does the downtown look like now?

Mr. SEAN FITZGERALD (Mayoral Chief of Staff, Peabody, Massachusetts): The downtown is completely submerged. And in some ways, this is a chronic problem. We've had, you know, five of these major floods in the last 15 years, and we have been working very closely with state and federal officials. And we're hopeful that we're going to be able to, at some point, secure funding that will help us address these chronic flooding problems.

The city of Peabody is a city of 50,000 people - a big city. We're a regional center. When our downtown is under water, we create such an emergency hazard throughout the region, it's hard to access many of the other communities in the North Shore because Peabody is a hub in a very important metro area.

ADAMS: How many people did you evacuate? And where did you put them?

Mr. FITZGERALD: We've evacuated over 150 people, and we've put them in our Torrigian Community Life Center and in our high school. So we have two strategic locations. We have cots. We have public health nurses. We have emergency management officials there to provide for their welfare and safety.

We are working closely with MEMA, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Association. Governor Romney did come to Peabody last night and toured the devastation with the mayor. But we've got a few more days of dealing with this emergency.

ADAMS: So are you feeling like you're getting enough help?

Mr. FITZGERALD: At this point, we're doing as much as we possibly can. However, you know, we have a downtown that really is underwater, and hopes of avoiding future problems like this, we're going to need much more help.

ADAMS: You say, underwater - is there water in the businesses downtown?

Mr. FITZGERALD: Many of the businesses have been affected.

ADAMS: How high?

Mr. FITZGERALD: Flooding upwards of four or five feet.

ADAMS: Into some of the stores downtown.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Yes.

ADAMS: And pretty much, I would guess, the emergency workers and the mayor's staff working all through the night?

Mr. FITZGERALD: We have been working around 24-hour schedules. You know, they're getting a little tired, so we're going to do our best to do the appropriate rotations. It is just - it's one of those emergencies. We've got a lot of people that really need assistance.

ADAMS: And the weather forecast is what?

Mr. FITZGERALD: We still have predicted five more inches of rain for tomorrow. You know, again, these things change hourly in New England, as Mark Twain has noted. So we're going to stay and monitor it and do our best to deal with whatever comes our way.

ADAMS: Sean Fitzgerald of the mayor's office in Peabody, Massachusetts. Thank you, sir.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Noah, take care.

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