LEOMINSTER, MASS. (WHDH) - More rain fell on Leominster Wednesday as cleanup efforts continued following severe flash flooding in the area earlier this week.
The rain sent water cascading down already washed out roadways and triggered a flood watch for much of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island as well as parts of southern New Hampshire.
While storm drains in the Leominster area appeared to be handling the majority of this latest round of rain Wednesday afternoon, officials and members of the public said the recovery from flooding on Monday may still take months.
“It’s going to take a long time to have this all fixed up,” said Leominster resident Ann Godfrey.
Floodwaters rose fast on Monday, ultimately washing out roads and damaging homes, businesses and city facilities.
First responders from numerous state and local agencies rescued residents from flooded homes. As the sun then rose on Tuesday morning, several roads remained closed due to sinkholes and other damage.
Near Hamilton Street in Leominster, railroad tracks still hung over a washed out culvert on Wednesday.
Asked if he had ever seen anything like the scene before him, one DPW worker responded.
“No,” he said. “Never in my lifetime.”
A total of 11 inches fell over five hours in some places Monday night, prompting a state of emergency declaration from city officials.
On Tuesday night, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey officially announced her own state of emergency declaration aimed at expediting relief efforts in the Leominster area and in the North Attleboro area, which was also hit hard by flooding on Monday.
Within Leominster, Mayor Dean Mazzarella on Wednesday said city schools will open with a two hour delay Thursday after two days of canceled classes due to flooding.
Mazzarella also said city crews had been able to open up one lane on some previously closed streets as of Wednesday morning.
The process of fully opening streets including Mechanic Street and Hamilton Street, though, could take additional time.
“It could be weeks before we can get those areas open,” Mazzarella said.
While crews worked to clear and repair roads, water was draining slowly in the basement of Advance Auto Parts in Leominster on Wednesday.
Other businesses were continuing their cleanup efforts after they faced feet of water just days earlier.
Along storm-damaged train tracks, heavy equipment was brought in to support work to restore regular Commuter Rail train service, which has been replaced by shuttle buses for part of the MBTA’s Fitchburg Line in recent days.
“Damage everywhere,” one man told 7NEWS.
Woman describes rescue after car nearly falls into sinkhole
Even as recovery efforts continued, evidence of the power of Monday’s rush of water remained.
On Hamilton Street a massive dumpster was seen stuck on its side in a home’s front yard after being carried some distance from a nearby parking lot, under train tracks and across Hamilton Street itself.
Off Lowe Street, a family was left with a sinkhole next to their driveway that nearly swallowed resident Nikki Connery and her car Monday night.
Nikki spoke to 7NEWS, saying she was on her way home from church when her driveway became a river.
“Mike’s calling me and he’s said ‘Don’t come home. Don’t come home. There’s a river flowing beside the house,’” Nikki said of her husband of over 40 years, Mike Connery.
With nowhere left to go as roads became impassable, Nikki decided to brave her dark driveway.
Once she was in the driveway, she said she felt her car “tip over a little bit.” She quickly realized she was trapped and dangling over the edge.
Ultimately, Mike said he grabbed Nikki and pulled her to safety.
Once the couple got inside their home, they said, they realized how lucky Nikki was.
“If I had gone just a couple more inches, I would have gone into the hole and not known why I was in the hole,” Nikki said.
Leominster neighborhood stranded after bridge washes out
The sinkhole near the Connerys’ home on Lowe Street was still visible on Wednesday, stretching 40-feet in length.
Nikki Connery, as a result, said she was worried about the structural integrity of her driveway.
Elsewhere, on a private road in Leominster near Exchange Street, several families were still stranded Wednesday after the bridge to their neighborhood washed away.
“I heard what sounded like a building collapse and five minutes later, my daughter got me because my other daughter was trying to get here and she went to turn onto the bridge and he had just disappeared,” said resident Eric Morin, describing the moment the bridge gave way.
SKY7-HD captured video of firefighters using a ladder truck to help Morin and other stranded families on Tuesday.
Morin said firefighters brought pizza and water. A day later, on Wednesday, he said firefighters were back in his neighborhood conducting wellness checks.
“They’ve been absolutely outstanding,” he said.
While he shared gratitude for first responders, Morin was not so pleased with state and local politicians after Gov. Healey toured some devastated areas with Mazzarella and others on Tuesday but did not make it to Morin’s street.
“Right now, I feel like we’re getting no help,” Morin said.
One other neighborhood resident who did not want to be identified said he is hoping something is done quickly to restore access to the rest of Leominster.
Without their bridge, the only current access for Morin and his neighbors’ neighborhood comes by foot through wooded areas and fields leading to Leominster High School.
Moving forward, there is a funding issue surrounding the process of making repairs. The now destroyed bridge served a private road. But it has been publicly maintained for decades, according to some residents.
7NEWS contacted the mayor’s office with questions about the situation but did not hear back as of Wednesday afternoon.
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