Rains End in New England, but Flooding Persists
NOAH ADAMS, host:
From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.
The rain has finally stopped in New England and flood waters are receding from the towns along the Atlantic Coast. Now the cleanup beings, and joining us to talk about the effort is Robert Dolan, the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. He spoke with us earlier in the week.
Mr. ROBERT DOLAN (Mayor, Melrose, Massachusetts): My wife and I have an eight-month-old and we have water and then no heat, electricity. So we moved to my in-laws, which is about four miles away. It took us two hours, an hour and a half to two hours to get to that site.
ADAMS: And again, Robert Dolan, Mayor Dolan, welcome to our program.
Mr. DOLAN: Thank you, Noah.
ADAMS: Could you hear a bit of tension in your voice from that day?
Mr. DOLAN: Yeah. You know, I listened to it and it brings back some memories that I wish to not repeat.
ADAMS: Was it a drastic time for your town?
Mr. DOLAN: It was. It was a very difficult and emotional time, but there's been many tragedies throughout the country regarding natural disasters and people are strong and American's like everywhere are strong and they help each other. We got through it.
ADAMS: The model of Katrina and New Orleans, the increased awareness nationally, do you think that had an effect on what happened in your city, both in...
Mr. DOLAN: It did. A much smaller level, obviously, but the way we handle people that are displaced, I think we learned a great deal from Katrina. And we decided to, because we had the ability to put people in hotels, to get them comfortable, to bring the stress level down and to give them privacy, and the state was able to provide buses and amphibious type vehicles to get them to these sites.
We decided to stay away from putting them on a high school on cots, which only increases stress, and I think it made a major difference, because I just remember seeing the Superdome and the people there, it just was so overwhelming, it created an unbelievable tension that resulted in rioting and theft and those types of emotional outbursts.
ADAMS: And you told us earlier in the week that you figured out a way to keep the people with their pets, which is an important thing.
Mr. DOLAN: Yeah, absolutely, and keep families together and get them communication. And after you can do that, people do settle down very quickly, and actually some of them would even say they had a good time and met some new friends, which is the best case scenario that they take from it.
ADAMS: How much danger were people in physically in Melrose?
Mr. DOLAN: Well, Melrose is a very old New England community, our infrastructure is old. The main issue is electricity, and obviously electricity and water don't mix. Anyone who put their foot in the basement with water, we've had some people who got electric shocks, etc. And trees, we have a lot of trees, and we have a lot of roads that were cut off, so there was quite a bit of coordination to get everyone out safely.
ADAMS: So you had to get the people out? The rivers that affect your town are what?
Mr. DOLAN: We have the Mystic River, we have El Pond, we have the Sagas River. Melrose used to be called Pond Field back in the 16 and 1700's, and it's because we have beautiful environmental greenbelt, which is wonderful in the spring and fall, but every ten to 20 years when Mother Nature takes back the real estate, it's devastating.
ADAMS: And so people back now in their homes?
Mr. DOLAN: People back. The part is cleaning out their basements and making sure the furniture is out, because mold is an issue particularly if you have allergies, and sewage is also a major issue. So we're monitoring contractors to make sure we don't have any unscrupulous contractors, which also happened in the South, to make sure people are getting fair rates and aren't being gouged, because there's a lot of clean-up and sewage is a major issue in this area.
ADAMS: Thank you. Robert Dolan, Mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts, thank you, sir.
Mr. DOLAN: Thank you, Noah.
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