When the downpour finally slowed to a drizzle Tuesday night, after raining for days straight, Rhode Islanders were glad it stopped, but were left with record flooding and damage when the sun came out. The epic rain that had been falling on and off for weeks, had residents airing out musty furniture and waiting on the Arc. President Obama declared the little Ocean State to be in a state of emergency, and FEMA was sent in.
Wednesday morning, after the rains had stopped completely, Rhode Island looked like a third-world disaster zone, refugees were salvaging homes in Hope Valley, camouflage Hummers patrolled the streets, Black Hawk helicopters hovered overhead and National Guardsmen set up makeshift dams and rerouted traffic around the impassable areas. The Pawtuxet and Blackstone and many other small rivers, brooks and streams flooded. Main streets turned to rapids, small streams turned to ponds laying in wait across roads. Basements flooded, roofs dripped, stores were sold out of sub-pumps, cars were left abandoned, their rooftops dotting parking lot lakes like archipelagos.
The most reported rainfall was the 4.19 inches in Coventry. Some of the most spectacular scenes came near waterside or riverside properties where water levels were heard to reach windows. Main roads and highways in Westerly are still closed, a week later. Some of the most damage came in the highly populated, commercialized areas of Cranston, Warwick and West Warwick, where the mighty Pawtuxet serpentines through. The flooding in Warwick left the Warwick mall looking like a lake with a Macy's sign in the middle of it. But in any corner of Rhode Island people were affected greatly.
Citizens preying for sun
"I live on Warden's Pond," said a South Kingstown resident. "I couldn't get back to my house to grab my cell phone charger. The road was under water. It caught a lot of people by surprise."
"I've never had flooding before," said Alex Turner of West Kingstown. "I had geysers shooting up from the floor and two feet of water in my basement. Two leather couches ruined. You can never get that wet smell out."
The rains have since stopped, Tlaloc, the God of rain, must have taken pity seeing as it's not 2012 yet. With the lowlands still flooded, and the water-table satiated, any more rain would bring more biblical flooding. Hopefully the rain will hold off, since it's the most we've seen in over 100 years. Hopefully it was a freakish patch of weather, and not the beginning signs of a vengeful Mother Nature fighting back. But even with the dark clouds and still waters, maybe there can be some bright patches. The flooding forced the issue about Rhode Island's crumbling infrastructure, and maybe the many roads, bridges and dams that need to be rebuilt can be the jolt to Rhode Island's unemployment-bloated economy. At first the unemployment office may take a hit, with all the displaced mill and mall workers. But all this damage could be the silver lining, the wreckage leaves alot of public works projects and contracts that need to be completed. Now the state can make good use of all that government money; rebuilding the state and the economy, starting with the ancient infrastructure taken down by the strongest of elements. We certainly understand the power of rain now.
Though I'd be delusional to think that me calling the beginning of spring could have somehow angered you. I can't speak for Rhode Island, but I am certainly speaking for myself when I say, "hail Tlaloc, god of rain, have mercy on us." Winter is long gone, and Rhode Island may still be waiting on sun-shining spring I thought had come, but now we can collectively hope that the rain will hold off for a while.
Photo: Patrick Burke