October 18, 2005

Massachusetts city threatened by bulging dam

BOSTON (Reuters) - Police closed off the southern
Massachusetts city of Taunton on Tuesday and evacuated 2,000
people from their homes after a 100-year-old timber dam
strained by record rainfall bulged and threatened to break.

Massachusetts emergency management officials said the
Whittendon Pond Dam in Taunton, a city of 49,800 people about
33 miles south of Boston, could fail any time in the next 24 to
48 hours after record rainfall swelled rivers and ponds across
northeastern United States last week.

"It's basically bulging," said Peter Judge, spokesman for
the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

"Obviously the flooding we've had is something it has not
had to face in recent years," he added. "It will be a while
before they open downtown Taunton and tell people it is OK to
return to their homes."

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood advisory
that said the situation was "extremely dangerous" and "life
threatening." A makeshift shelter was opened for residents who
live along a river downstream from the dam.

Torrential rain and floods swamped cities across the
northeastern United States last week, washing out roads,
triggering mudslides, leading to power outages and forcing
hundreds of people to flee their drenched homes.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney declared a state of
emergency in Taunton and has estimated the week of rain and
floods likely caused $6.5 million in damage in Massachusetts, a
threshold that would make the state eligible for federal aid.