Rhode Island residents abandon homes, hope for best

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March 15, 2010, 4:51 pm
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(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Cranston, RI) - People in Rhode Island are dealing with river flooding. The Pawtuxet River in Cranston is rising to record levels.

With just the essentials stuffed into plastic trash bags, residents abandon their homes and hope for the best.

"Oh. Unbelievable," says Thomas Straus. "It's the worst it's been."

Straus lives with his wife and son at 70 Perkins Street in Cranston Rhode Island. They held out as long as they could, but just after noon on Monday, agreed to voluntarily evacuate.

"The water is in the basement," he says. "It's about three feet from hitting first floor."

After four days of steady rain, the swollen Pawtuxet River is flooding city streets and neighborhoods. At Perkins and Third Ave fire officials say water has risen as high as four feet with a current that could easily pull under a child.

Says Cranston District Fire Chief Ned Grady, "it could actually topple an adult, it's dangerous."
Rhode Island's Emergency management Agency puts the flood level for the Pawtuxet at 9 feet. By late afternoon, city officials say it had risen to historic levels -- nearly 15 feet.
Robin Schutt, with the mayor's office, says, "It's extremely bad, this is probably the worst we've seen certainly."

The area around Elmwood Avenue is of particular concern to the city. Business along the main drag are taking on massive amounts of water...these cars and trucks were waiting to be repaired at local auto body shop.

One customer laughed nervously, "I hope it doesn't go any higher."

"If you look at the bottom of arches you can see that the debris starts piling up, it could dam," says Schutt.

Back on Perkins...Bob Rossi watches the water creeping up his street warily.

He says, "My wife calls me and says...it's in our backyard, then she calls me back and says it's in our basement."

A basement he'd recently refinished with tile and hardwood floors so his daughter and grandkids could move in. This isn't the first time the neighborhood's taken on water, but it's *never reached Rossi's house. For years, he'd kept up on his flood insurance -- ...but in tough times recently let it lapse.

"We'll just take it as it is," he says "and clean up after it's all over."

Tags: storm, flooding
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