Death toll from Northeast flooding rises to 11

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Some areas have had more than a foot of rain since Oct. 7.

SPRING LAKE, N.J. -- The death toll from a week of driving rain and swelling floods across the Northeast rose to 11 on Saturday after a 75-year-old Connecticut man was swept away by rushing water at a campground. Flooding also shut down major highways and forced hundreds to evacuate their homes.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney became the latest governor to declare a state of emergency Saturday, following the lead of New Jersey.

"There's water in the road, water in the basement, literally all over the state," said Jim Van Dongen, spokesman for the New Hampshire Emergency Management Office.

Flood warnings were in effect for New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and southern New York. Some areas have had more than a foot of rain since Oct. 7.

"I don't feel like floating down the river in a mobile home. Just as simple as that," Stan Posner said as he left his home in Keene, N.H.

Many of the 1,300 residents evacuated from Keene returned to home Saturday, but a 500-foot mudslide shut down part of Route 123. Four people remained missing in New Hampshire from flooding last weekend.

Flooding made roads impassable across Connecticut and officials urged residents to stay home. Traffic backed up for miles Saturday on Interstate 91 north of Hartford when water on the road forced the major artery to close in both directions.

At the Roaring Brook Campground in Stafford, Conn., a man was swept away by fast-moving water early Saturday after his truck became stuck in a newly flooded area, state police said.

"We probably got three months of rain in this past week," Kerry Flaherty, state director of emergency management, said Saturday as he monitored the flooding from the Hartford armory.

Hartford got a record 5.26 inches of rain on Friday -- raising its monthly total to 12.77 inches. That made it the wettest October on record for Connecticut -- the previous record was 11.61 inches in 1955, according to the National Weather Service.

The flooding also disrupted Amtrak train service. Trains from New Haven to Boston and New Haven to Springfield, Mass., were canceled Saturday and service was limited between New Haven and New York City.

In Johnston, R.I., firefighters traveled down one street Saturday on a rubberized motor boat.

"I've never seen it like this before, never," said Fire Lt. Anthony Pallini.

One resident, Paul Desroches, said he had not had a drop of water in his basement in 30 years. Now, there was a foot of it.

"I wanted to go canoeing and kayaking this weekend," Desroches told WJAR-TV, "but I didn't think I'd be doing it in my own back yard."

In Spring Lake, N.J., giant military vehicles rolled in Friday to help carry out hundreds of residents after an inlet flooded and a pumping station overflowed. Not far away, a dam at a state park failed, swamping the streets.

All that made Jack O'Connor finally step into a rescuer's rowboat.

"All the years I've lived in Spring Lake," said the 84-year-old O'Connor, "I've never been in a boat until now."

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