NPR logo Northeast Flooding is Most Severe in 70 Years

Northeast Flooding is Most Severe in 70 Years

METHUEN, Mass. (AP) - Driving rains that caused the worst flooding in New England since the 1930s finally eased up Tuesday, but washed-out roads and the danger of dam breaks prevented many people from returning to their homes.

More than a foot of rain fell across New Hampshire, Massachusetts and southern Maine between Friday and Tuesday, with up to 17 inches in some places. No deaths or serious injuries were reported.

Gov. Mitt Romney said the damage would reach tens of millions of dollars in Massachusetts alone. And more rain was forecast for the weekend. But on Tuesday, the worst appeared to be over. In Maine, roads reopened and the threat against two dams on the Salmon Falls River eased.

In Methuen, Mass., state and federal engineers watched a granite dam in danger of collapse after it was reinforced with 5,000 sandbags.

Many property owners began cleaning up, although major rivers remained above flood stage.

Jeffrey Saba, 42, used a 20-foot canoe to inspect his swamped home in Lowell, Mass., near the swollen Merrimack River. The water flooded Saba's garage and rose past his deck, 10 feet off the ground. "I just canoed over a 6-foot fence," Saba said.

"We are up against a battle now," Saba said. "The next couple of days will be just a waiting game."

Water flooded the first floor of a nursing home in Lawrence, forcing officials to cut power to the place and evacuate 200 residents.

In Haverhill, officials worked to repair a burst sewage pipe dumping tens of millions of gallons of waste per day into the Merrimack River. State environmental officials said that the sewage posed no immediate threat to public health, and that a temporary fix should be in place by Friday.

The heavy rains triggered the worst flooding in some areas since 1936, according to the National Weather Service. And even though the month is only half over, it already ranks as the wettest May on record in Concord, N.H., and Portland, Maine.

Scattered showers were forecast through the weekend, but the rains should be much lighter, said Charlie Foley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Entire neighborhoods in Nashua, H.H., were sandbagged as firefighters rescued about a dozen people and their pets by boat. About 40 female inmates from a halfway house in Concord, N.H., were taken to higher ground because of a leaky dam.

Maine Gov. John Baldacci joined Peggy Fennelly as she walked inside her candy store in York to find soda bottles and supplies bobbing in the dark floodwaters. Her freezer had fallen over, and boxes of candies and chocolate were soggy and ruined.

"I started crying and he hugged me," said Fennelly, 73. "He said, 'You're a strong lady and you'll make it."'

Associated Press writers David Sharp in York, Maine; Katharine Webster in Rochester, N.H.; and Andrew Ryan in Boston contributed to this report.