Flash floods can quickly turn a street into a river

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Heavy rainfall is not in this week’s forecast, but it’s not uncommon to get a good soaking during these warm summer months and it’s vital to be prepared for the possibility of a flash flood.

Street flooding can happen fast. Often times, drivers are caught off guard, even when they know a particular area is notorious for flooding.

Several such areas are located in the city of Cranston. One of the most common spots to find significant flooding is the Oaklawn Bridge underpass near Wilbur Avenue, where the city’s fire department was called in to remove five cars from floodwaters in the past year and a half.

Another well-known spot is Fletcher Avenue. The fire department said they’ve had to pull two cars from floodwaters in the area of Back Street during that same time period.

Perhaps one of the most memorable flooding events in Cranston happened during Rhode Island’s historic floods of 2010. Both the Pocasset and Pawtuxet Rivers flooded their banks after days of rain and many homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.

The city later purchased six flood-prone homes near the Pawtuxet and tore them down.

Another community that’s often impacted by flooding during storms is Narragansett. During torrential rain, its street flooding comes from fresh water as ponds and streams overflow.

Topping the list of the town’s most flood-prone roadways is Bonnet Point Road between the beach and Allagash Trail. In addition to water rising from Wesquage Pond, heavy rain often drains down from nearby Boston Neck Road.

“Vehicles have gotten stuck out here on the causeway and we’ve had to either walk the pedestrian out of the car or actually help a tow company hook the cable up to the car to tow it out of here,” said Narragansett Director of Public Works Michael Dicicco. “It’s not uncommon.”

So how fast can flooding cause trouble? If you’re walking, it takes just six inches of moving water to be swept off your feet. Experts say your car can be swept away by two feet of moving water.

Across the border in Massachusetts, communities such as Fall River and New Bedford tend to see substantial rain flooding during heavy rain.

Back in July of 2014, Hurricane Arthur soaked New Bedford with more than six inches of rain as it passed to the southeast, but it doesn’t need to be a tropical system to cause street flooding.

The New Bedford Fire Department said there are two areas of the city that can quickly turn into small rivers: the intersection of Dean and Purchase Streets and Belleville Avenue near Hatch Street.

According to the Fall River Public Works Department, Pleasant and Quarry Streets – also known as Stafford Square – can quickly go from zero to three feet of water. About 20 years ago, the district chief and his aide were forced to perform a self-rescue after they were trapped there when water rose up to the middle of the their vehicle’s doors.All week long, Eyewitness News and the Pinpoint Weather Team will be looking a summer weather risks and uncovering new information to help you stay prepared, just in case.

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