Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Flooding blocks Westboro roads

Water cuts off firefighters
number:
Kevin Keenan
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF


WESTBORO- A freak rainstorm transformed downtown Westboro into Venice last night, creating wading pools under highway bridges, a whirlpool around the rotary and an impassable pond between the Fire Department and a fire.

The rain caused such flooding that firefighters couldn't get to Regal Cinemas Westborough 12 on Route 9 for a reported lightning strike and fire.

Several moviegoers watching a film inside theater No. 3 called 911 to report an odor of smoke about 7 p.m. Westboro firefighters couldn't get there because the intersection at Routes 9 and 135 was flooded.

"There was 4 feet of water between us and the movie theater, so we called Northboro and they responded for the first alarm assignment," Capt. Philip Kittredge said.

The flooding left Westboro firefighters in sight of the movie theater but with no easy way to get there.

Capt. Kittredge said the fire was confined to an HVAC unit on top of the building. All of the cinema's patrons were evacuated before Northboro firefighters arrived, he said. The firefighters put out the fire almost immediately.

Westboro firefighters finally made it by taking a circuitous route via Otis Street past Target and then east on Route 9 to the theater.

The cinema reopened shortly afterward, though theater No. 3 remained closed. There were very few patrons at the movies, though it wasn't certain whether it was the report of a fire or "Johnny English," which was playing in No. 3, that kept customers away.

The skies opened at 6 p.m. and dropped about 2Ĺ inches of rain during the next half-hour, according to John M. Walden, the town's public works director. By 6:45 p.m. the downtown roads resembled canals, and cars were creating wakes that rolled over the curbs.

The dip under the downtown railroad bridge had 4 feet of water, making East Main Street impassable. It was the same with the Route 135 dip under the Route 9 bridge. The rain didn't let up until after 7 p.m., leaving pools and puddles around town. By 9 p.m. most of the water was gone and traffic was back to normal.

Around 9 p.m., street sweepers were dispatched to those locations to clean up the debris carried into the dips by the torrent.

Police Officer Charles Dapolite said there were a few minor accidents associated with the weather. A motorcycle skidded on wet pavement at Connector Road, tossing a man onto the pavement around 9 p.m.

Officer Dapolite said the man suffered minor injuries and was taken by ambulance to the UMass Memorial Medical Center - University Campus in Worcester. No further information was available.

The traffic light at Speedway Plaza also malfunctioned after the storm, and flooding on Route 9 in front of the former Levitz Furniture caused traffic delays.

In Rutland, flooding on Route 68 slowed traffic between Wachusett Street and the Holden town line. There also was flooding on Glenwood Road, slowing traffic there. The worst of the flooding happened between 9 and 10 p.m., according to a police dispatcher.

Richard Nangle of the Telegram & Gazette staff contributed to this report.