Floods Cripple New England

Torrential rain flooded New England for five days, marking the region’s worst flood in 70 years. The rain started on Thursday, May 11, finally clearing up on this past Tuesday, May 16. In Boston, 10.75 inches of rain have already fallen midway through May, making it the second-wettest month since 1872. The downpour swamped homes, forcing 209 people to move into shelters in Massachusetts, according to the Red Cross. 369 National Guard soldiers and rescue workers built sand-bag barriers on the banks of rivers throughout New England. They also aided with home evacuations and relief work. Even though the rainfall has ceased, relief work is expected to continue for at least another week. According to Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the damage could cost up to tens of millions of dollars. The Merrimack River rose eight feet over the flood stage due to the 17 inches of rain that have fallen since Friday, canceling PA crew practices for most of the week. A piping system burst in Haverhill, Mass. because of backed-up sewage in cellars and sinks. Sewage began to run over into the Merrimack River at a rate of 35 million gallons a day. Although rumors circulated that Phillips Academy would close for the year due to the spilt sewage, this runoff has not affected Andover’s drinking water supply. The town of Andover states that its water is instead being treated at the isolated Haggett’s Pond. All facilities are functioning suitably, and drinking water quality is being monitored constantly. As for other preventative measures, Michael Williams, Director of Facilities, said that Andover has been “investing in pump systems, and waterproofing from roofs to basements. We also have a large inventory of emergency equipment for these events.” However, Mr. Williams said that some damage still occurred on campus, including “minor basement flooding in a number of buildings [such as Draper and Day Hall], drywall damage in other buildings, and utility tunnel flooding as well. Nothing serious that would cause us problems with operating the school.” Andover High School closed for two days because flooding forced the town to shut down Shawsheen Road, which serves as a vital link to the school for most students. As of Wednesday, May 17, other flooded Andover roadways include Gray Road, High Plain Road, and Haverhill Road. St. Paul’s School, located in Concord, New Hampshire, closed for the rest of the year on Monday, May 15. The two ponds located on St. Paul’s campus made the school particularly susceptible to the downpour. As the ponds swelled with the extra water, they surpassed their boundaries and created a river, dividing the campus in half. The excessive damage prompted St. Paul’s Rector William R. Matthews, along with the emergency response team and administrative leadership, to evacuate the school and end the school year. This early closure shortens the St. Paul’s school year by two and a half weeks. The serious flooding began on Saturday night, and at first led to the cancellation of classes until further notice. The initial response was to move the student body into dorms on higher ground. Later, everyone was evacuated to the Memorial Hall auditorium and the athletic and fitness center. Malcolm Eaton, St. Paul’s Class of ’09, said, “The school was basically divided in half. The flooding was so bad that to get from one half of the campus to the other you would have to leave the campus, take the highway, go around Concord, and drive in the other side.” Damaged facilities include the Ohrstrom Library, the Post Office, the Hargate arts building, the dance building, and three dorms. The central heating plant and sewage pumping station were underwater, and forced to be shut down. As of May 15, the campus had been successfully evacuated. According to the Rector, everyone was either home or with a host family until arrangements could be made. Because students could not take all of their belongings, the school prepared to have them packed and shipped to the students’ homes. Eaton said, “Everybody was shocked. We couldn’t believe that we went from a normal schedule to canceling school in the span of a weekend. Everything happened so fast that many didn’t really get to say goodbye.” In regard to the graduating class of 2006, the Rector has assured that graduation will occur on schedule. However, Barbara Landis Chase, Head of School, has offered the Academy’s Cochran chapel for St. Paul’s graduation ceremonies, if the school has not recovered enough to host it.