10 years after the floods
While Rhode Island remains engulfed in a global public health crisis, it recently marked the anniversary of another natural calamity.
Heavy rains in March and early April 2010 sent the waters of the Pawtuxet River spilling over into neighborhoods, roadways and developments. The flooding caused enormous disruptions to daily life and millions of dollars worth of damage.
Communities across the state were affected, but Warwick and Cranston were among those hardest hit. In light of the anniversary, Beacon Communications reached out to the men who were serving as chief executive in the state’s second- and third-largest cities during the floods.
Scott Avedisian was already roughly a decade into his tenure as Warwick’s mayor when the floods came. Now the CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, he offered the following reflections on those weeks in 2010:
“On March 15, 2010, the Pawtuxet River began to peak due to tremendous amounts of rainfall. This ‘little flood’ impacted three pumping stations owned by the Warwick Sewer Authority, caused $50,000 in damage, and was simply a foretaste of what was to come. Two weeks later the river overflowed its banks and treatment facility flows reached five times the average daily flow, pump stations along the river shut down, anything portable was removed from the Sewer Authority buildings, reverse 911 calls were made to all residents, non-essential staff was sent home, and at 1:15 p.m. on March 30, 2010, the Pawtuxet River breached the levee and flooded out the Warwick Sewer Authority.
“Meanwhile, the Warwick Mall was under water, the newly constructed NYLO hotel was flooded, Interstate 95 was closed, the Warwick School Department shut down, T.F. Green State Airport was forced to use portable toilets, hundreds of residents lost cherished possessions, the city ordered residents not to flush the toilets in their homes, coin-operated laundromats were shuttered, and the cities of Warwick and Cranston came to a screeching halt.
“While all of this pales in comparison with the tragic pandemic we are now facing, there is a message of hope. Ten years ago, people were in dark times. They had lost possessions and many thought that they would never recover. However, Holy Week went on as usual. And that Easter morning, the sun was shining every so brightly and stronger than ever.
“Many people worked long and tirelessly during that crisis – in the same manner that many are now. They included Col. Stephen McCartney and the Police Department, Chief Edmund Armstrong and the Fire Department, Public Works Director David Picozzi and his employees, and of course Janine Burke Wells, executive Director of the Warwick Sewer Authority, and her staff.”
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung was a little more than a year into his first term when the floods arrived. Here are his thoughts on the 10-year anniversary: “During my past 11 years as mayor of this great city, I have led Cranston through the great floods, tropical storms, blizzards and now through a mighty plague. If the locusts start flying about, I’m waving the white flag!
“Seriously though, great challenges only make you better and I’ve learned a lot about strong leadership in times of crisis. Back then, Scott was helping to guide me as the new mayor on the block. We worked well together and helped safely lead our cities through those devastating floods. Ten years later, I'm happy to return the favor to many mayors and town managers statewide, all of whom are doing everything they possibly can to protect the health of their residents.”