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Providence area flooding closes I-95, leaving drivers stranded for hours

Radar estimates of fallen rainfall since 8 p.m. Sunday as of shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service.National Weather Service

Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee on Monday urged state residents to avoid “unnecessary travel” amid heavy flash flooding, including a flood on Interstate 95 near Providence which left some drivers stuck for hours.

“We will continue to watch weather and road conditions throughout the night and communicate closely will our cities and towns to monitor the local impact,” Governor Dan McKee tweeted.

As of Monday evening, traffic had resumed moving in both directions of Interstate 95 near Providence after heavy rains flooded the highway for two hours Monday evening, according to a spokeswoman from the the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.


Traffic hit a standstill and flooded cars had to be towed, said Liz Pettengill, director of communications for RI DOT.

“It caused traffic backups but the state police got right down there towing cars and our crews cleared out the drains” to open up the interstate, Pettengill said.

Everything was completely cleared by about 7:15 p.m., she said.

Crews from the department of transportation and state police “will be out there all night, on sight and ready to work in case there’s another downpour,” Pettengill said.

Rhode Island State Police warned motorists to avoid the roadways if possible Monday evening.

“Heavy rain is forecasted for several more hours,” the agency tweeted at 4:58 p.m. “Please stay home if you can but if you need to be out, use caution and do not enter flooded areas or large puddles.”

A flood warning is in effect for a portion of northern Rhode Island, including Providence and Kent counties, until 10:30 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

A flood watch remains in effect for parts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and northern Connecticut. It is set to expire at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Providence area has seen between 3 and possibly up to 6 inches of rain, said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the weather service in Norton. The heaviest rain missed T.F. Green Airport, he said in a phone interview Monday evening, and mostly hit downtown Providence and Cranston.


The front that stalled over I-95 “moved very little today and really won’t push out until tomorrow,” Dunham said.

The rain in Rhode Island will likely drift over to Bristol and Plymouth counties in Massachusetts, he said. There is “a lot of rain going all the way back to Central New York,” so there will be periods of on and off rain through Tuesday, he added.

As commuters head to work Tuesday morning, they should be prepared for slow going on roadways, especially if traveling through areas hit by heavier precipitation overnight as there may still be standing water, Dunham said.

According to Providence police, by 3:30 p.m. Route 95 North and South at Thurbers Avenue (Exit 18) were completely flooded, and drivers were asked to avoid several other key roads as well. By 4 p.m., Providence Emergency Management was urging residents to avoid all unnecessary travel.

A building at 215 Peace Street collapsed during the flooding. It was unoccupied at the time, and no injuries were reported.

Shortly after 6 p.m., the flood waters had receded and Route 95 North and South reopened to traffic, though a flood warning remained in effect until 10:30 p.m. for much of the state. The Rhode Island State Police worked to move stalled vehicles off of highways, and about 600 power outages had been reported as of 6 p.m. Still, some drivers were stuck on flooded roads for hours.


“We will continue to watch weather and road conditions throughout the night and communicate closely will our cities and towns to monitor the local impact,” Governor Dan McKee tweeted at 4:45 p.m.

A little more than an hour later, during a press conference held over Zoom, McKee urged motorists to stay off the roads. “As evening approaches and its starts getting dark you’re not going to see the flooding accumulating on the roadways,” he said. I know it may seem like the storm has slowed down but we’re expecting there may be another surge.”

Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti told reporters that drainage systems had not become blocked during the flash flooding, which dumped more than 4 inches of rain on Providence and surrounding areas in a short period of time. “It was simply that the rain came down at an intensity that exceeded its capacity to accept it,” he said during the press conference.

By 7 p.m., the Rhode Island Department of Transportation tweeted that all major arteries had reopened.

Flash Flood Warnings for southern Providence County, Bristol County and central Kent County expired shortly after that, at 7:30 p.m.

Tonya Alanez can be reached at tonya.alanez@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @talanez. Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.