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Heavy rainfall leads to street flooding across parts of Connecticut

Manholes overflow on Union Ave in New Haven during a rainstorm on September 06, 2022. When the flooding stops, city workers put the caps back on the manholes, which blow off whenever there’s a surge.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Manholes overflow on Union Ave in New Haven during a rainstorm on Sept. 6, 2022. When the flooding stops, city workers put the caps back on the manholes, which blow off whenever there’s a surge.

Heavy rains flooded roads and downed trees across Connecticut Tuesday as officials urged residents to exercise caution while traveling.

Southern and eastern Connecticut got the most rainfall, with some areas getting 5 to 6 inches over a 24-hour period. The town of Sterling, along the Connecticut-Rhode Island border, received more than 7 inches.

Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday, as well.

By the end of rush hour Tuesday morning, New Haven had received one month’s worth of rain in one night. That’s according to Rick Fontana, the city’s director of emergency operations.

He said the double whammy was that it peaked right at high tide, flooding a dozen roads, the school bus terminal and shutting down a post office.

“I think the worst has passed for right now," he said Tuesday afternoon. "But again, you know, we are on a 12-hour cycle for our second high tide day, which will be 8:30 [Tuesday night], and we're going to be in the same position.”

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker noted the tides in a Facebook message. Combined with high tides Tuesday morning and evening, "there is the possibility that areas of the city and roadways can become flooded without warning and become dangerous and cause damage quickly," Elicker wrote.

Fontana said the situation is exacerbated by the city’s old drainage system. New Haven has applied for a $26 million FEMA grant to dig a new, wider one.

Flood advisories, watches and warnings were in effect for parts of the state Tuesday morning and early afternoon.

Around 10 a.m., heavy rain was filling rivers and tributaries that feed into the Connecticut River as well as the Hockanum River, the National Weather Service said. Up to 3.5 inches had fallen by 10 a.m., officials said.

Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations, the National Weather Service warned.

Rain-slicked roads caused traffic tie-ups across the state early Tuesday morning.

This week's rainfall follows weeks of dry weather as Connecticut has experienced drought conditions. As a result, the ground is dry – and it’s less able to absorb moisture, Connecticut Public Meteorologist Garett Argianas said.

“It’s obviously an issue where we’ve gotten so much rain over the past couple of days,” he said. “That kind of exacerbates the flooding concerns, of all things. Even though you’re in this drought situation and we really need the rain. It seems kind of unusual to think about it, but the dry ground has a harder time absorbing water than ground that is of a typical more normal level of moisture.”

The two-day rainstorm hit neighboring Rhode Island hardest, as it dropped more than 11 inches of rain in one community, blocked a major highway in the state, stranded motorists and forced the shutdown of the state’s largest zoo.

More than 11 inches of rain had fallen in the city of Cranston by early Tuesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service, while some other areas of the state got around 8 inches of rain.

Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence was closed Tuesday so that workers could clean up the mess left behind by the rain, including trees that fell onto walkways. No animals were harmed, a zoo spokesperson told WJAR-TV. The zoo was scheduled to reopen Wednesday.

Connecticut Public Radio's Jennifer Ahrens and Matt Dwyer and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Updated: September 6, 2022 at 3:23 PM EDT
This story has been updated.
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