May 14, 2006

New England hit by heaviest rains in a decade

BOSTON (Reuters) - The heaviest rains in a decade pounded
Massachusetts and New Hampshire on Sunday, forcing hundreds of
people from their homes and prompting governors to declare
states of emergency and call up National Guard troops.

No injuries or power outages were reported as of early
Sunday evening, partly because no strong winds accompanied the

But officials in both states cautioned that the situation
could worsen overnight as the continued heavy rains threatened
to overwhelm rivers and dams.

Some 8 to 10 inches of rain had fallen in the hardest-hit
parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and 5 more inches
could hit those areas over the next day or so, the National
Weather Service said.

"We're not really out of the woods," said agency
meteorologist Alan Dunham. "We've got a ways to go with this."

Most of the evacuees were from the Massachusetts towns of
Melrose and Peabody, suburbs north of Boston where flooding
caused sewage to back up into cellars and sinks, sending some
450 people to shelters. More than 100 people were evacuated in
New Hampshire.

Authorities were checking about a dozen dams at risk of
failing if conditions worsened, said Jim Van Dongen, a
spokesman for the New Hampshire Bureau of Emergency Management.

"We're at the hairy edge," he said, noting that massive
flooding could occur if the rains got heavier overnight.

The storm is the biggest downpour to hit the region since
October 1996, Dunham said.