Indoor Air Quality Alert: Leominster, Massachusetts Flooding

What is the location of the flooding?

Catastrophic flooding impacted Leominster, Massachusetts and parts of New England on September 12, 2023 (1)(2)(3). The city received 10 inches of rain in six hours (4).

Leominster is about 40 miles northwest of Boston in central Massachusetts. Fitchburg, Lunenburg, Sterling, and North Attleborough, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island were also affected by flash flooding.

This follows severe flooding in Vermont and New England in July.

Which cities or areas are affected by the flooding?

  • Leominster, Massachusetts: Leominster was the epicenter of the flooding, with widespread damage to buildings, roads, dams, and infrastructure. Evacuations took place, and numerous roads were closed. A significant number of homes and businesses in Leominster were affected by the flooding, and schools were closed.
  • Fitchburg, Lunenburg, and Sterling, Massachusetts: These towns, located near Leominster, were also at risk of flash flooding.
  • North Attleborough, Massachusetts: North Attleborough experienced significant damage to homes and roads due to heavy rain and flooding. Approximately 200 homes were damaged.
  • Providence, Rhode Island: In Providence, Rhode Island, there was flooding in a parking lot and parts of a shopping mall on Branch Avenue. Firefighters had to rescue stranded individuals in their cars.
  • Some roads in Rhode Island, and Nashua, New Hampshire were flooded.

What is the current containment status of the flooding?

As of Wednesday, September 13, 2023, the region was still receiving rain from thunderstorms. On Thursday, the rains had abated.

Some dams sustained damage in Leominster, but they held. The city was working to reinforce them. Additionally, one dam, the Barrett Park Pond Dam, was of concern due to its poor condition.

Further intense rainstorms and associated flooding are possible in the upcoming weekend, complicating recovery efforts. Hurricane Lee may pass close to New England and Atlantic Canadian provinces on Friday night, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (5).

Are there any evacuation orders or alerts in place?

Leominster and North Attleborough declared states of emergency. Additionally, Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts on September 12, 2023 (6).

  • Leominster, Massachusetts: There were evacuation orders in place for areas near a brook and the North Nashua River in Leominster due to concerns about the Barrett Park Pond Dam. Residents were urged to "immediately evacuate and safely leave the area." Schools were closed in the city.
  • North Attleborough, Massachusetts: Because North Attleborough experienced significant flooding, emergency response teams were dispatched to assist residents.

How can I protect myself from mold after flooding?

It’s important to take steps to prevent mold after a flood.

  • Before entering a flooded area, make sure it is safe and free from electrical hazards or structural damage.
  • Use protective gear: wear gloves, goggles, and a KN95/FFP2 mask to minimize exposure to mold spores.
  • If there is still standing water, remove it as quickly as possible. Use pumps, wet-dry vacuums, or buckets to extract the water.
  • Open windows and doors to facilitate air circulation and use fans, dehumidifiers, and HVAC systems to help dry the space. This step is crucial within the first 24-48 hours after flooding to prevent mold growth.
  • Remove and discard any items that have been severely damaged by floodwater and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. This includes carpets, upholstered furniture, mattresses, and any other porous materials.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces with a detergent or cleaner suitable for mold remediation. Use a solution of 1.5 cups of bleach mixed with one gallon of water to disinfect nonporous surfaces. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products, as the fumes are toxic.
  • Maintain an indoor relative humidity (RH) of 35-50%. High humidity promotes mold growth, so consider using dehumidifiers in damp areas.
  • Run a high-performance air purifier for mold, both during and after the mold removal work.
  • If the flooding and mold damage are extensive, consider contacting professionals specializing in mold remediation to ensure proper cleanup and restoration.

Remember, mold can pose health risks, so it's important to take these steps promptly and thoroughly. If you experience persistent mold-related health issues or have concerns about extensive mold growth, consult with a medical professional or a mold remediation specialist.

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