fb-pixelFlooding in Leominster MA: Donations trickle in Skip to main content

Leominster’s longtime mayor has led the city through tough weather before. But last week’s flooding was a beast of its own.

One week after heavy rainfall inundated the city, Leominster’s recovery process receives a boost from donations.

Last week, 11 inches of rain fell on the city, resulting in forced evacuations and over $35 million worth of damage, according to Leominster's mayor.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

In the time since Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella was elected three decades ago, Leominster has witnessed the Great Ice Storm of 2008 and the 2011 Halloween Nor’easter, among other extreme weather events. But Mazzarella said last week’s flooding is in a category of its own.

“When trees come down, you cut the trees and remove them, you get the electricity up and running, and you move on,” Mazzarella told the Globe. “This is different.”

Last week, 11 inches of rain fell on the city, resulting in forced evacuations and over $35 million worth of damage, Mazzarella estimated. Now, in the wake of the downpour, Leominster is working to meet the threshold for a federal disaster designation. Over 500 people have filed flood damage information forms to the city so far — nearly half of the 1,200 to 1,300 forms Mazzarella said are needed to receive aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

While Leominster has not yet qualified to receive federal aid, residents and neighbors have provided some immediate relief to kick-start the city’s recovery. Just under $100,000 has been donated so far, Mazzarella said, and more is on the way.

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“People have been very generous,” he said. “We’ve had people come in with $5 checks, and we’ve had people come in with $5,000 checks.”

A local car dealership is matching donations to the Leominster relief fund up to $50,000, and United Way of North Central Massachusetts, Community Foundation of North Central MA, and Greater Worcester Community Foundation have made the same pledge.

Leominster residents have stepped up in other ways, too. Volunteers have helped with cleanup initiatives, and neighbors have opened their doors to those who lost their homes. Last weekend, Mazzarella said, the city brought dumpsters to collect waterlogged waste and furniture. A few dozen volunteers offered assistance in a “touching” display of community, he said.

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With help from cleaning crews, Leominster schools are back in session, and some of the damaged roads have been opened, Mazzarella said. Crews also repaired commuter rail tracks, and service returned Tuesday morning.

Recovery will take time and, hopefully, funding from FEMA. Leominster has received nearly half the number of damage forms required by FEMA, Mazzarella said, with people filing every hour.

In order to receive federal aid, the city must prove “the damage is in a designated area, the applicant has legal responsibility to perform the work, and the cost is reasonable,” according to FEMA’s website. Mazzarella said he is unsure what the agency will cover until the city declares it is in need of aid. He estimated that bridges, roads, and sinkholes accounted for around $13 million of public property damage, with private property damage accounting for at least another $20 million.

In the meantime, Leominster residents will continue to rebuild one step at a time. Mazzarella said he is optimistic — and proud.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in a week,” he said. “Things are coming along.”


Vivi Smilgius can be reached at vivi.smilgius@globe.com. Follow her @viviraye.