Route 1 bridges over Pawcatuck, Mystic Rivers closed
Police have closed the Pawcatuck River bridge into Westerly tonight as well as the Stillman Avenue bridge because the raging waters of the Pawcatuck River are pounding the side of the roadway.
State engineers have recommended the closure of the bridges. Police have evacuated several downtown buildings along the river including those on pilings over the water because they are worried about the structural integrity of the buildings and bridges. All power is off in downtown Westerly because of problems with a substation on Canal Street.
Also, the state DOT closed the Mystic drawbridge just before 9:30 p.m., citing rising waters and the coming high tide as a safety concern.
Earlier, just past noon, Stonington First Selectmen Ed Haberek said he will declare a state of emergency for the town as officials worry that the old dam off Lane Way will break and flood the now-evacuated Birdland neighborhood off Route 1.
This is the same area and dam that was threatened last June when a large amount of rain fell in just a few hours.
An emergency shelter for residents is now open at the high school and is being staffed by the American Red Cross.
"The whole town is a mess," Haberek said.
Meanwhile, he said the state Department of Transportation is expected to deliver 1,000 sand bags to the town today. He will announce how to obtain them as soon as they arrive.
In addition, sections of numerous roads in town have been closed because of flooding including Route 1 from the police department to South Anguilla Road and in the area of Bishop's Cove in Mystic.
"Old Mystic is a giant lake," Haberek said referring to the area of Route 27 near the Old Mystic Mill, which has been inundated with water and flooded many homes and businesses.
Sections of Pequot Trail, Greenhaven Road and Jerry Brown Road near the Aquarion Water Co. and Coogan Boulevard have also been closed.
The Stillman Avenue bridge, which links Pawcatuck and Westerly, has been closed because water is cresting above the bridge deck and around the span. Town officials are also worried about the structural integrity of a small bridge at Greenhaven Road and Route 1 where the road has been closed.
The parking lot of Mystic Aquarium is under water but unlike in June, all cars have been removed. The Stonington Community Center has been surrounded by water and is inaccessible. Along Interstate 95, large wooded areas have been turned into deep lakes.
Haberek said the Aquarion Water Co. has been sporadically releasing water from the Palmer Dam. So far the road has not been damaged.
Water levels at the Aquarion reservoir in Stonington are so high that officials are about to release the gate at Palmer Dam.
Lorraine Bukowski, public relations managers at Aquarion, said personnel at the Dean Mills water treatment plant and Palmer Reservoirs determined that the water levels are so high that they must release the press gate at the Palmer Dam.
She said the release of water may exacerbate flooding at Mistuxet Road and Jerry Brown Road, where the plant is located.
She said there is no safety issues with the dam.
Stonington officials evacuated residents from the Birdland section of Pawcatuck, off Route 1, as a precaution against rising flood waters.
Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek said the town is monitoring several dams in the area, particularly the dam near Robin, Canary, Oriole, Swan and Wren streets, also known as "Birdland." As a precaution, residents who live there are being evacuated.
Haberek said the fire department is going door-to-door as the dam is cresting.
"We are doing this as a precaution," Haberek said. "If the dam breaks, it could wash out several neighborhoods." He said sand bags were put in that area.
Residents are expected to go to the high school, where an emergency shelter is being set up.
Stonington fire personnel rescued a woman stuck in her car on flooded Deer Ridge Road.
A resident of Devon Drive, Steve Monroe, said he has five feet of water surrounding his house. He said the fire department spent a portion of the night pumping the area in an effort to quell the flooding.
Sewer plants holding steady
Stonington's three aging sewer plants are receiving massive amounts of water but have so far been able to treat the diluted sewage before discharging it into the Pawcatuck and Mystic rivers and Stonington Harbor.
"We're right on the edge, but we're hanging in there," said Harold Storrs, the director of the town's Water Pollution Control Authority.
Storrs said that the Pawcatuck plant, which typically treats 600,000 gallons of sewage a day and has a capacity to treat up to 2.3 million gallons, will treat 3 million gallons today.
At the Mystic and borough plants Storrs said operators are letting sewage back up into the sewer lines a bit so they can properly treat it as it comes into the plant. He said the operators are being careful not to let the sewage back up too far so it does not flow back into people's homes.
He said the plants' main priority is to make sure chlorination levels are maintained so bacteria are killed before the water is discharged. He said operators will remain at the plant around the clock.
Because the rainwater has infiltrated the sewer lines, Storrs said the sewage coming into the plants is more diluted than normal. The plants can keep up with the demand for now, he said.
"But if this goes on for several days we'll be in trouble," he said.
Storrs added that the breakdown of an important piece of equipment would pose a major problem.
"So far everything has held together," he said.
March rainfall sets record
Groton Utilities is reporting record rainfall totals for the month of March.
In March 1953, 9.63 inches was recorded. That record was broken this month. As of last night, we received 11.14 inches.
As of midnight, the area received 1.85 inches of rain.
The average rainfall total for March is 4.64 inches.
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