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Leominster Public Schools to close Wednesday after flooding, district announces. Follow live updates.

Torrential rain causes extensive flooding, damage in Leominster
The central Massachusetts town was hit with torrential rain Monday evening, causing extensive damage.

A deluge of rain caused severe flash flooding in Leominster on Monday night, bringing extensive damage, washing out roads, inundating homes and businesses with water, and forcing evacuations throughout the night.

The city’s mayor, Dean Mazzarella, said that “within four and a half to five hours,” about 11 inches of rain fell in Leominster, the Worcester County city about 40 miles northwest of Boston.

We’re gathering the latest news and updates. Follow along live.



 

September 12, 2023

 

Here’s what you need to know about flash flooding — 4:13 p.m.

By Sarah Raza, Globe Correspondent

What exactly is flash flooding, and what can you do to stay safe?

Here’s what Kristina Dahl, principal climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says you need to know.


Governor Healey tours downtown Leominster, calls scenes ‘absolutely devastating’ — 3:41 p.m.

By John Hilliard, Globe Staff

Governor Maura Healey, who toured downtown Leominster Tuesday afternoon, following a visit to North Attleborough earlier in the day, called the scenes of storm damage “absolutely devastating.”

In a Globe interview, she pledged to get financial assistance quickly to the affected communities.

”I’m going to bring to bear everything that we can in terms of state resources to help with the cleanup (and) to help residents get back on their feet.”

Healey said the state is working to secure federal assistance for the recovery, and will be declaring a state of emergency.

”We’re going to pull out all the stops and do everything we can to get relief to people,” she said.


Providence, R.I., store manager recounts wading chest-deep into floodwaters — 3:13 p.m.

By Carlos Munoz, Globe Staff

Jackie Catu, an assistant store manager at Citi Trends on Branch Avenue in Providence, R.I., said she captured video of looters wading through floodwater with bags of merchandise on Monday night. She said she came to the store between 9 and 10 p.m. to pick up materials for store management when she discovered the flooding. She said she waded through chest-deep water to the store entrance, which was apparently smashed by a floating car.

”The merchandise was already floating around outside in the parking lot,” Catu said. “But people coming into the store, we think its a little disrespectful honestly, and that’s why we can’t have nice things in the neighborhood.”

Catu also said she was concerned for her safety because of the water, which was mixed with sewage. On Tuesday, dozens of emergency services were cleaning up the shopping center.

”It was more of like a scene from ‘Jaws’ where you’re wondering if there’s anything under the water,” she said. “Water would get into the store before when it flooded, but I’ve never seen anything this bad, and I’ve only been working here about three months.”

Oscar Perez, crew chief with J. Brian Day Emergency Services, pushed water out of the flood damaged Citi Trends clothing store at the Branch Avenue Plaza Shopping Center on Branch Avenue in Providence on Tuesday.Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe
David Radcliffe, deputy director of the Providence Emergency Management Agency, took photos of the flood-damaged Citi Trends clothing store at the Branch Avenue Plaza Shopping Center in Providence. Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe
A rack of clothing was marked by a muddy water line inside of the flood-damaged Citi Trends clothing store.Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe

Here’s how to help Leominster residents affected by the flood — 3:06 p.m.

By Amanda Kaufman, Globe Staff

Leominster city officials said people interested in helping residents affected by the flood can write a check made out to the Leominster Relief Fund or stop by the mayor’s office at Leominster City Hall on 25 West St. to donate by cash or check.


Leominster Public Schools to close on Wednesday, district announces — 3:01 p.m.

By Amanda Kaufman, Globe Staff

Leominster Public Schools announced Tuesday afternoon that there will be no school on Wednesday.

”Precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of all of our students and staff,” Paula Deacon, the superintendent of Leominster Public Schools, said in a notice posted to the district’s Facebook page.


‘I had no idea how fast it can happen,’ Lancaster street resident says — 2:42 p.m.

By John Hilliard, Globe Staff

Along Lancaster Street in Leominster, large sections of roadway had been washed away, leaving massive valleys along the street and thick, sticky silt caked along the street and across lawns.

City crews made a survey of the aftermath. At least two homes were badly damaged, including one where part of the foundation had failed under a garage, sending a parked SUV tumbling down several feet, and left resting at an angle.

The yard and driveway of the next-door home were also destroyed, making it difficult to reach the front door.

Fire crews assisted residents from both homes recover some of their property and leave the neighborhood around noontime Tuesday.

A car was stranded in a driveway damaged by floodwaters on Lancaster Street. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Residents said that, during the storm, torrents of water flowed down the street like a river from an overflowing nearby brook. Leominster’s police were responding to emergencies across the city, and couldn’t send an officer during the storm to stop vehicles from trying to use Lancaster Street.

Some people used their own vehicles and tried to flag down commuters before people risked wrecking their cars along the road, according to resident Maureen Clapp.”

A car was seen inside a garage on Lancaster Street in Leominster.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

They did a good job of trying to contain people from coming down and getting flooded out,” she said. “They were all just regular people helping.”

Still, she was stunned by what she experienced.

”You hear stories, like in Andover recently and other parts of the country where people get flooded out... I had no idea how fast it can happen,” she said.

Down the road, Andy Sambito walked into his backyard and to the normally traquil brook at the rear of his property. On Tuesday morning, water was rushing past, and the brook appeared to be quadruple its normal size, he said.

A man carried a hard drive out of a home that was damaged by flooding on Lancaster Street.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The flooding from Monday night washed over yards and into basements in the neighborhood, he said. He was airing out his home Tuesday, and still trying to make sense of the catastrophe.

”I guess we were in the wrong spot at the wrong time,” Sambito said.


Retired teacher fought to save neighbors’ homes from flooding — 2:28 p.m.

By John Hilliard, Globe Staff

John DeCicco remembers the Blizzard of ‘78, when the region was shellacked by nearly 30 inches of snow — clogging highways, shutting down businesses, and stranding thousands in their homes.

But after Leominster was inundated by about 10 inches of rain that turned scenic brooks into raging rivers, sending surging floodwater into homes and businesses, and forcing many to seek out emergency shelters, DeCicco thinks the historic snowstorm was a little bit easier to handle.

The worst of it, he remembered, was not being able to see the streets due to the high piles of snow.

But on Monday, there was no fighting the torrents of floodwater: “I would have preferred snow... You can’t shovel water,” DeCicco said.

Read the full story.


Map: See how much rain fell Monday — 1:53 p.m.

By Christina Prignano, Globe Staff

Rainfall total reports from the National Weather Service show how localized the torrential rainfall was amid Monday’s storms.

Much of the area received under an inch of rainfall, meanwhile Leominster saw more than 9 inches as of 10 p.m. Monday, according to the totals, which are compiled by trained spotters.

Use the map below to see how much rain fell in your town.


Nashua monitors river flooding on heels of rainiest summer in N.H. — 1:24 p.m.

By Amanda Gokee, Globe Staff

Authorities in Nashua are eyeing the Nashua River, with more rainfall pushing it toward a dangerous level. The city received 2 to 4 inches of rain on Monday, saturating the ground, and is expecting another inch of rain Wednesday.

”Tomorrow is going to be another big day,” said Stephen Baron, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

If a thunderstorm forms, certain areas could receive even more rainfall. A gauge on the Nashua River in Massachusetts found the river is currently at 6 feet, but it is projected to keep rising.

A Tuesday midmorning forecast found the river is predicted to reach over 7 feet by noon Wednesday, which is the action stage, when mitigation is required to prepare for significant hydrologic activity.

Rescue teams in Nashua worked through Monday night helping those stranded in their cars. The fire department also responded to calls about flooded basements and buildings.

“Our infrastructure was a bit overwhelmed because of the speed of the rain,” said Nashua Fire Chief Steve Buxton. He said there was a lot of localized flooding and people had to be rescued when they became stranded in the water.

Smaller streams and brooks also began flooding people’s yards, and one of the city’s Federal Aviation Administration centers was hard hit, he said.

No one was forced to evacuate, and Buxton said he hasn’t received reports of any serious injuries.

Read the full story.


Flood watch in effect for majority of Mass. through Thursday morning — 1:10 p.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

The majority of Massachusetts is under a flood watch through Thursday morning, the National Weather Service said Tuesday afternoon.

Portions of Connecticut and Rhode Island are also at risk of “flooding as a result of excessive rainfall,” the NWS said.

Excessive runoff may result in “flooding of streets, urban areas, as well as low-lying, poor drainage and flood-prone locations,” the weather service said.

The Wednesday afternoon commute will likely be impacted by heavy rain, and “rapid-onset flash flooding is possible,” the NWS said.

Where persistent downpours develop, flooding may be “locally significant,” especially in areas that have seen severe flooding over the last 24 to 48 hours, the weather service said.

“This includes the potential for water in homes and businesses, road washouts, and structural damage,” the NWS said. “Small creeks and streams may experience sharp rises to over bankfull.”

Meanwhile, southeastern Massachusetts, including the Cape and Islands, is at risk of high rip currents through Wednesday evening.


Leominster resident recalls moment when he saw sinkhole — 12:50 p.m.

By Emily Sweeney, Globe Staff

Lenny Valarezo, 36, lives on Pleasant Street, and he recalled the moment when he first saw the sinkhole on his street.

”I didn’t actually hear it, but I did start noticing a lot of the cars that were coming down this side of the road just kept stopping,” he said. “I noticed they had to keep turning around.”

He said it was around 9:30 p.m. when he looked outside, and he immediately saw the damage.

”The way I noticed something was wrong — I could see the yellow lines of the street. Typically, you know, they’re flat on the ground. But I could see that it had just caved in, and they were pointing down,” he said.

As Balarezo got closer, he said he “could see that water was rushing through the hole there.”

“That was wild,” he said. ”It was kind of scary, because there’s the house that’s very close by, and that creek seems to run underneath. The rain was really heavy yesterday, and I’ve never seen flooding like that. It was crazy.“


MassDOT on site in Leominster and Princeton to assist — 12:28 p.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

Staff with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation are on site in Leominster and Princeton following flash flooding in the communities overnight to “assist with emergency roadway and culvert repairs, providing pumps/assistance for flooded basements, & inspecting bridges,” the department wrote in a post.

MassDOT noted that the Route 3 bridge over the North Nashua River is closed and that local roads may be closed. Drivers were urged to use caution.


Healey says she has reached out to the Biden administration, congressional delegation for help — 12:20 p.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

While touring flood damage in North Attleborough, Governor Maura Healey said her administration and local partners are assessing needed repairs and working to get “applications in for federal funding.”

Healey said during a press conference Tuesday that she’d reached out to the Biden administration and members of the congressional delegation.

”I know that our congressional delegation is going to work hard and advocate for this community, this region, and regions across the state affected by yesterday’s terrible weather, and we’re going to continue to press on all fronts,” she said. “I love to visit all of our 351 cities and towns but no one wants to see me coming because of this.”

”It’s really important that we all be here together continue to work together, press on the federal government for relief, and help while we build our own resilience,” Healey added.


North Attleborough officials estimate 200 homes reported to have flood damage — 12:04 p.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

North Attleborough Town Manager Michael Borg said the town was hit hard by “significant rain and flooding overnight,” during a press conference on Tuesday.

The area was hit with about “five inches of rain in a span of three to four hours” starting at around 6 p.m. Monday.

“Coupled with a significant rainfall from the Saturday before, the town has seen approximately 10 inches of rain in the past 72 hours. Last night’s storm did cause significant damage to a number of homes and roads throughout the town,” he said.

Some roads in North Attleborough are closed to due infrastructure concerns, he said.

Crew from the public works department were working to get the roads open. Approximately 200 homes as of Tuesday morning were reported to have had flood damage around town, and local police and fire responded to “over 150 calls for service last night.”

”The majority of these are related to flooding and water issues,” he said.

Borg said officials are continuing to monitor the weather, including Hurricane Lee.


Pavement washes out under a section of Commuter Rail tracks in Leominster after sinkhole opens up — 11:47 a.m.

By Amanda Kaufman, Jessica Rinaldi, and Travis Andersen, Globe Staff

A stretch of pavement washed out underneath Commuter Rail tracks in Leominster after a sinkhole opened up, prompting workers to remove a telephone pole in the area.

The Fitchburg line was forced to curtail trips on Monday night due to storm-damaged tracks. Officials said shuttle buses would replace some trains on the line through Tuesday.”

Due to damaging flash flooding in the Leominster area, all Fitchburg Line trains will now originate/terminate at Shirley station,” the rail tweeted. “Buses will replace regular train service between Shirley & Wachusett through the end of service on Tuesday, September 12th.”

Workers removed a telephone pole from a section of MBTA tracks where the pavement had washed out underneath them after a sinkhole opened up in Leominster. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Representative McGovern says he is monitoring flooding in Leominster — 11:40 a.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

Representative Jim McGovern, whose district covers Central Massachusetts, said in a post that he is “closely monitoring” the flooding in Leominster and has staff on-the-ground coordinating with officials.”

Today, I spoke with @FEMA and they are committed to working closely with @MassEMA to assist. I will be standing by Leominster in the months ahead as we rebuild,” he said.


See drone footage of damage in Leominster — 11:14 a.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

Drone footage captured by Henry Swenson (henrysweatherchannel) showed the extensive damage in Leominster from the flash flooding Monday evening, including a major washout on Lancaster Street, sunken Cadillacs at a car dealership, and a massive sinkhole across the street from Pond Street.


Red Cross helping Leominster residents impacted by flooding — 11:08 a.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff


‘The worst we’ve ever seen it,’ Colburn Street resident says — 10:44 a.m.

By Emily Sweeney, Globe Staff

Brianna Boutelle, 31, lives on Colburn Street, a short distance away from a giant sinkhole that swallowed up a front yard at the corner of Colburn and Pleasant.

“The house up there on the corner... it’s completely, like, ready to fall into a sinkhole,” she said. “The whole foundation of the house.”

On Monday night around 8:30 p.m., Boutelle grabbed a flashlight to signal to drivers and prevent them from traveling through the “massive puddle” that had formed on Colburn, close to where the sinkhole opened up.

“I was actually out here last night trying to help people turn around,” she said. “Nobody had any clue on where to go. Roads were blocked off everywhere.”

Tuesday morning Colburn Street was no longer flooded, but a thin layer of sand and silt coated the section of the roadway that had been submerged the night before.

Boutelle said that part of Colburn Street has historically been prone to flooding, but she’s never seen rain cause so much damage to her neighborhood.

“I’ve lived here 31 years and this is the worst we’ve ever seen it,” she said.

She said she was concerned about the forecast, which is calling for more rain. She’s also worried about the Barrett Pond Park Dam.

“The water’s got to go somewhere,” she said. “But I mean with how much we got, it just had nowhere to go.”


See photos of the extensive damage from flooding — 10:38 a.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

Torrential rain brought severe flash flooding to several communities in central Massachusetts Monday evening, causing extensive damage and evacuations.

In Leominster, which received a stunning 11 inches of rain in a matter of hours, Mayor Dean Mazzarella called the situation “catastrophic.”

Photos and videos of the aftermath showed sinkholes that had swallowed vehicles and torrents of water rushing onto streets.

See more photos and videos.

Workers removed a telephone pole from a section of MBTA tracks where the pavement had washed out underneath them after a sinkhole opened up in Leominster. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
A firefighter stood in front of a home that was covered in debris in Leominster. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
A car was covered in debris outside of a home on Hamilton Street in Leominster. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
A man on a bicycle stopped on Hamilton Street, which was blocked by mud and debris in Leominster. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Workers used a crane to remove cars from a sinkhole that opened up at a Cadillac dealership in Leominster. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Governor Healey to tour flood damage statewide — 10:27 a.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey will tour flood damage in North Attleborough and Leominster on Tuesday, according to an advisory from her office.

She will first visit North Attleborough at 11:30 a.m. and later Leominster at 1:15 p.m., according to the advisory. The location for both flood tours has yet to be announced.


‘We’ve never had anything like this before,’ restaurant owner says of flood damage — 10:10 a.m.

By John Hilliard, Globe Staff

Jan Gonynor, who was getting ready to open up Brady’s restaurant — just across from the collapsed sidewalk on Mechanic Street — said luckily her business had no damage.

But Gonynor, who grew up in Leominster, said the flood damage across the city is unprecedented.

”Unbelievable. We’re never had anything like this before. Ever,” she said.

She also said the city will need help recovering and praised the leadership of its mayor.

”Our mayor is excellent, he’ll help out anyone he can. He gives the shirt off his back,” she said.

As of Tuesday morning, there had been no reports of injury — and Gonynor counted the city’s blessings.

”Thank God. It could have been a lot worse,” she said.


At The Fix Burger Bar, damage appears ‘pretty significant,’ neighbor says — 10:03 a.m.

By John Hilliard, Globe Staff

Along Mechanic Street, a large section of sidewalk collapsed into the Monoosnoc Brook below. Water rushed through the brook like a raging river Tuesday morning, after local business owners said it flooded buildings along Monument Street the night before.

Among the impacted businesses was The Fix Burger Bar, where the water level reached about chest high in the building’s ground floor, according to Bill Hannigan, who owns a business next door.

He said it was unclear how much damage there was due to the flooding, but it appeared “pretty significant.”

He said the city needs assistance from the state and federal government.

”We need some help,” he said.


Sinkhole swallows several vehicles at Cadillac dealership — 9:55 a.m.

By Jessica Rinaldi, Globe Staff

The disastrous flooding impacts were clear at Durand GMC, a Cadillac dealership on Main Street, where a sinkhole swallowed several vehicles and flood waters rushed through the building, exposing rocks and earth beneath.

Randy Tucker, a sales consultant at the dealership for 33 years, said he saw it happen Monday night. A crane was lifting cars out of the sinkhole Tuesday.


Here’s where to call if you need non-emergency help in Leominster — 9:43 a.m.

By Amanda Kaufman, Globe Staff

Leominster officials are urging anyone who needs non-life-threatening help for issues such as basement flooding to call the city’s emergency management office at 978-534-7580. For life-threatening emergencies, people should call 911.


About 100 people sheltered overnight at Leominster elementary school — 9:31 a.m.

By John Hilliard, Globe Staff

Luca Calvani, the Red Cross’s disaster program manager for Central Massachusetts, said about 100 people were sheltered overnight at Frances Drake Elementary School. There were no injuries he said in an interview Tuesday morning. About a dozen people remained inside.

“We’re only making sure that people’s needs are met,” Calvani said.

Outside of the shelter, the sounds of young children could be heard inside. By the entrance, Red Cross workers were helping a resident wait for a ride to take her home.


Two emergency shelters set up for residents — 9:14 a.m.

By John Hilliard, Globe Staff

Two emergency shelters have been set up for residents, Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said. One is at Frances Drake Elementary School, and the other is at Skyview Middle School, where cots, food, and water were available. Officials there declined to comment on how many residents, if any, had come to the shelter due to the flooding.


See photos and videos of the flooding aftermath — 8:41 a.m.

By Kenneth Singletary and Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

Areas around Leominster, Fitchburg, and Lunenburg were hit by massive flooding especially hard Monday evening, with portions of Route 2 underwater.

See photos and videos.

Vehicles make their way through a flooded Lancaster Street during heavy rain in Leominster, Mass., Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. (Rick Cinclair/Worcester Telegram & Gazette via AP)Rick Cinclair/Associated Press

Mass. emergency officials provide update on response — 8:17 a.m.

By Amanda Kaufman, Globe Staff

Officials with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday morning that agency staff have been on scene since Monday night “supporting the local flood response & coordinating requests for assistance, including 3,000 sandbags, additional shelter staff, traffic sign boards & shelter equipment to support residents with disabilities.”


Flash flood emergency ends; flash warning in effect — 8:00 a.m.

By Travis Andersen, Globe Staff

Leominster, along with with neighboring Fitchburg and Lunenburg, was under a flash flood emergency until 8 a.m., with forecasters warning that “this is a PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION.”

A flooding warning is in effect until 11 a.m. for portions of Massachusetts, including Bristol, Norfolk, and Worcester counties. The warning extended to portions of Rhode Island, including Bristol, Kent, and Providence counties.

“Flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations is imminent or occurring,” the National Weather Service warned. Numerous roads remain closed and “streams continue to rise due to excess runoff from earlier rainfall,” forecasters said.


Leominster officials urge residents near Barrett Park Dam to evacuate — 7:45 a.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

Early Tuesday morning, city officials urged residents who live near Barrett Park Pond Dam to “immediately evacuate and safely leave the area.”

“We have put out a code red and notified everyone along that streambank, along that river base, from Barrett Park down to the center to evacuate,” Mazzarella said. “That park pond is served by many water resources. The safest thing right now is to evacuate people from those homes should something happen to that dam.”

Firefighters used boats and a military truck to evacuate residents and pets as floodwaters rise in the Meadowbrook Acres neighborhood of Leominster on Monday. Rick Cinclair/Associated Press

Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her @shannonlarson98. Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her @amandakauf1.