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Thousands without power as flash flooding reaches parts of Mass.; tornado watch issued for southeastern towns and Rhode Island

As the remnants of Hurricane Ida move into New England, a cyclist crossed the street at the intersection of the Monsignor O'Brien Highway and Land Boulevard.
As the remnants of Hurricane Ida move into New England, a cyclist crossed the street at the intersection of the Monsignor O'Brien Highway and Land Boulevard.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The National Weather Service has issued flash flood warnings for several cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts through Thursday morning, including Boston, and a tornado watch is in effect for communities to the southeast and Rhode Island as the remnants of Hurricane Ida swept into New England after walloping New York City with historic rains.

Some 14,000 customers were without power in Massachusetts Thursday morning with the largest number of outages being reported in Barnstable, Bristol, and Middlesex counties around 5:46 a.m., according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

The heavy rains are expected to start tapering off by 8 a.m. across the region but strong gusty winds will persist throughout Thursday, forecasters wrote around 4:55 a.m.

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“Heavy rain tapers off from west to east and should be over with by roughly 7-8 AM,” forecasters wrote. “Dry, but breezy conditions are expected for much of the day as low pressure lifts out and exits the region. Still could have a period of damaging wind gusts this morning into the early afternoon.”

Gusts could reach 45 miles an hour, forecasters said.

Amtrak canceled all service between Philadelphia and Boston with an initial departure before 9 a.m. on Thursday due to the severe weather, Amtrak tweeted.

The overnight rains have started swelling rivers and streams across the region, including the Muddy River in Brookline which is expected to reach flood stage level of some 15 feet around 6 a.m., according to the weather service.

The Shawsheen, Sudbury, and Neponset rivers were all expected to reach minor flood stage Thursday morning, according to the weather service. Historically, rivers rise in the days after rainfall ends.

Flooding was reported in parts of Boston, including near Storrow Drive, where a car was reportedly stuck as of around 5 a.m., according to local news outlets. A flash flood warning remains in effect for the city until 6 a.m., the weather service said.

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Flash flood warnings are in effect for most of the region, and several tornado watches and warnings were issued and then dropped overnight. A tornado watch remains in effect on Cape Cod and the islands until 7 a.m., according to the weather service. Tornado warnings were dropped in Bristol and Plymouth counties. Residents were told to take shelter in a basement or on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.

Southeastern Worcester counties as far east as Milford are under a flash flood warning until 8 a.m. Thursday, the weather service said. Forecasters said between 2 and 4.5 inches of rain had fallen at around 3 a.m., and that an additional inch was possible in the warned area. A flash flood warning is also in effect in Bristol and Plymouth counties including New Bedford, Fall River, and Taunton until 8:30 a.m., the weather service said. Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, and communities as far west as Framingham and as far north as Gloucester until 8 a.m. Thursday, the weather service said. Forecasters were predicting that Boston could receive as much as four inches of rainfall overnight.

A flash flood warning for southeastern Massachusetts, including New Bedford, Brockton, and Fall River, is in effect until 6:30 a.m. Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, and other area communities are under a flash flood warning until 7 a.m., the weather service said. Flash flood warnings were also issued for parts of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard until 8 a.m. Friday, and until 7 a.m. in parts of western Massachusetts, including Northampton, according to the weather service.

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Forecasters and public safety officials were urging drivers to avoid flooded roads.

“The worst is yet to come for us in southern New England,” the National Weather Service’s Boston office said shortly before 11 p.m.

The overnight downpours are likely to cause dangerous driving conditions during the morning commute Thursday and could lead to washouts and closed roads in some areas, forecasters said.

“Heavy rain will reduce visibility and will make driving pretty tough,” said Kristie Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boston. “The roads will be slick, and hydroplaning is always a problem when we get heavy rain.”

The showers are expected to taper off around noon on Thursday, she said.

“Luckily this is a progressive system, meaning it will move out quickly,” Smith said. “We should have blue skies and a nice sunset [Thursday] evening.”

With streams already running high from recent rains, there is “very little capacity left for an excessive rainfall event,” forecasters said. “This will yield widespread flooding with very significant to rare/high end flooding where 6 to 7 inch amounts materialized.”

“There’s just nowhere for this water to go,” Smith said.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning in central Massachusetts for Springfield, Chicopee, and Westfield until 5 a.m. Thursday. Worcester and Milford are under a flash flood warning until 5:30 a.m.

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Brittany Bowker of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico. Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follower her on Twitter @brittbowker. John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.