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FEMA officials visit Leominster to assess damage from ‘catastrophic’ flooding

Neighbors embraced in front of flood damage on Lancaster Street in Leominster.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

A month after torrential rain caused “catastrophic” flooding by washing out roads, breaching dams, and opening sinkholes in Leominster, federal officials visited the city on Thursday to survey the conditions.

“Today was about assessing the damage in areas all around the city,” Mayor Dean Mazzarella said via email.

On Thursday, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency joined city engineers and officials and “broke up into three groups to view the damage to city infrastructure, damage to homes/property and businesses,” Mazzarella said.

“This is the first official step into the process to seeing if we qualify for a declaration by the state and federal governments,” Mazzarella added.


The mayor provided no further information about the visit. A preliminary damage assessment is a critical step in securing federal disaster recovery assistance, according to the agency’s website.

When Leominster received a stunning 11 inches of rain in a matter of hours on Sept. 11 and 12 much of downtown was left underwater, Mazzarella called the situation “catastrophic” and said “it affected every single section of the city.”

The torrential rain caused rivers to overflow, closed more than two dozen roads, inundated homes and businesses, and forced residents to evacuate their homes throughout the night with hovercrafts and boats.

Sinkholes swallowed vehicles and yards and a damn at Leominster’s Barrett Park was breached.

More than 100 homes were damaged in the flooding, with five rendered uninhabitable. Some buildings downtown had 6 and 8 feet of water in their basements.

The state’s emergency management agency deployed thousands of sand bags, and scores of people forced from their homes took shelter at local schools, which were closed.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Mazzarella estimated that repairs would run to millions of dollars and would take months to complete.


Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency, citing “severe property damage” and flash flooding in Worcester and Bristol counties.

Tonya Alanez can be reached at Follow her @talanez.