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Norwich, Bozrah in flood warning as Yantic River surges

September 26, 2018

The Yantic River crested at 12.7 feet and two people were rescued from an RV in a flooded parking lot in Norwichtown Wednesday morning, city officials said.

The National Weather Service placed homes and businesses along the Yantic River in Norwich and Bozrah in a flood warning early Wednesday after heavy rains pushed the river into “major flood stage,” or beyond 11 feet. Flood stage for the Yantic is 9 feet.

The Norwichtown Commons shopping center on Town Street was closed because of flooding in the parking lot, but the stores weren’t damaged. All stores opened later Wednesday morning, but the lower half of the parking lot remained closed and flooded.

The Yantic Volunteer Fire Department said it rescued two people around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday from an RV in a low-lying parking lot near the Dominos at 20 New London Turnpike, which is on the north side of the river, city officials said.

Yantic Fire Chief Frank Blanchard said the two people in the RV flagged down a police patrol car when the vehicle was surrounded by water shortly after 3 a.m. Yantic firefighters brought their flat-bottomed Boston Whaler to the scene, but ended up equipping the two people with life jackets and walking them through the 2 1/2 feet of still water to dry land.

Blanchard said they later drove the vehicle from the area.

Bill McIntosh, co-owner with his wife, Bonnie, of Colonial Carpet and Tile in the same parking lot, said he had about 20 inches of water in the store’s basement Wednesday morning. He said he hadn’t gotten in to assess the damage by 10 a.m., but called it the second worst flooding in their 33 years in business in that location. In 2010, McIntosh said the business had 4 feet of water.

“This was really kind of a surprise,” McIntosh said. “I should have been more prepared, but there was nothing in the river last night. I said ‘We’d have to get a lot of rain for it to flood.’ Well, we got a lot of rain.”

Blanchard said fire and city emergency officials started monitoring the river at 2 a.m., when heavy rains in Colchester and Lebanon caused the Yantic River to rise quickly. River levels behind the Yantic station rose faster Wednesday morning than in the March 2010 flood — a frequent comparison used by city officials and observers Wednesday — reaching 12.53 feet.

Norwich Fire Lt. Jacob Manke, acting emergency management director, said the river had receded to 9.5 feet by 10 a.m., but: “I just got another alert from FEMA. ‘Flood warning issued at 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.’”

Manke credited the Norwich Public Works Department and the Community Emergency Response Team for assisting with the overnight storm response, closing roads and preparing for flooding. He said officials will continue to monitor rain later Wednesday.

Firefighters in Yantic monitored the river level overnight to ensure the firetrucks did not have to be evacuated, Blanchard said. Water never reached the building, but water in the station parking lot rose higher than in 2010, he said. Fire crews received a few calls Wednesday morning of flooded basements.

Norwich opened its Emergency Operations Center around 4:30 a.m. and delayed schools for two hours. In a notice posted online, officials said multiple roads were closed and detours are marked, largely in the Yantic section of the city.

City Manager John Salomone said schools were delayed because of the road closures and in case the Kelly Middle School was needed as an emergency shelter. West Town Street and Wawecus Street in Yantic were closed overnight and reopened Wednesday morning as the river receded, Salomone said.

Salomone said the river started receding at 6 a.m. By 8:30 a.m. the emergency center had closed but was on standby.

Norwich Public Utilities didn’t report any power outages.

Those in Norwich who have flooded basements can call the dispatch center at (860) 886-5561, ext. 6.

The NWS said the river was at 12 feet at 4:46 a.m. but has since begun to fall. The service compared the crest to that of Sept. 21, 1938 — the river hit 14.7 feet when the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 came through — but NBC Connecticut meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan said on Twitter the flooding likely would be more comparable to that of March 2010, when more than 8 inches of rain fell in two days, prompting Norwich to declare a state of emergency and bring in the National Guard.

c.bessette@theday.com

Day Staff writer Lindsay Boyle contributed to this report.

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