City officials are planning on how to better prepare for heavy rains in Lynn after flood

From left, Rartha Kou Thach, Cameron Fentress and Rafy Lora all employees at Pagliaro Electric on Commercial St in Lynn. They spent the day Monday clearing flood damaged supplies from their shop. (Jim Wilson)

LYNN — After 8 inches of rain in a two hour-timespan caused widespread flooding and structural damage throughout Lynn on Sunday, city officials are planning on how to better prepare for heavy rains in the future.

Although officials were quick to point out that 8 inches of rain in such a short period of time would be taxing to any drainage system, they acknowledged that there is an issue with drainage that needs to be addressed.

The Lynn Fire Department and Lynn Police responded to more than 200 storm-related calls as of 3 p.m. on Monday.

Frank Ewing and Joyce LeMay-Ewing were standing outside their West Lynn home at 5 Ainsworth Place on Monday afternoon after discovering a large portion of the side of their house had collapsed due to water collecting, leaving piles of brick and stucco siding in the basement. Frank said there was four feet of water in their basement at one point.

Joyce said they had just moved into the home early this month. They purchased it at the end of June and didn’t hear about any structural problems to the home during the real estate process.

She said they didn’t notice the problem until shortly after 1 p.m., Monday, because they didn’t spend the previous night at the home. Power was shut off in their neighborhood and they stayed with one of her friends on Sunday.

National Grid shut off power to more than 600 residences on Sunday as a precaution in some flooded areas.

Lynn fire crews responded to help the couple on Monday, but Joyce said she was devastated when she saw the huge hole in her new home.

“I cried,” Joyce said. “I literally cried. I drank a beer when I saw it and I don’t drink. That’s how upset I was.”

Lynn Fire Capt. Joseph Zukas said water got behind the wall, causing it to collapse inward. Fire crews shored up the foundation in attempted to stabilize it.

Since the building is structurally compromised, the residents were ordered to stay out of the building until a structural engineer assesses it and determines it is safe for them to live there again, Zukas said.

Ward 7 City Councilor Jay Walsh, who represents the area, said that entire neighborhood of houses around Ainsworth Place were flooded from the storm. He said everybody lost their boilers or heating systems. Even during regular rain events, the homes in that neighborhood still get flooded.

“There’s truth to the fact that there’s been issues here,” Walsh said. “The storms that are supposed to be the 100-year storms are happening every six months now. The amount of water going into the culverts that run through those neighborhoods can’t be handled. That’s why Boston Street flooded.

“It’s all part of the Strawberry Brook system that runs through Flax Pond so all the water that was a problem further upstream makes its way here. This area floods even without these 100-year storms.”

Walsh said there’s something that needs to be done about the problem, whether it’s improving the infrastructure under the ground in the area or having pumps on station to make sure that the water goes into the ocean in a good, timely manner.

“We need state and federal money to come in here and start doing it,” Walsh said. “You can’t expect people to live here and lose everything in their house every six to eight months.

“I don’t think since the last time this happened, there hasn’t been any plans. Nobody’s looking at this. I think everybody was under the assumption that well, it was one time and it’s not going to happen again … I’m hoping this is going to shed some light on it and we’re going to have a plan for these people.”

Lynn Fire Lt. Paul Ricchi, the city’s emergency management director, acknowledged that the drainage, especially in the West Lynn area, has been a problem. He said downtown Lynn, another heavily impacted area, is topographically like a punch bowl, making it vulnerable to flooding.

“8 inches of water in two hours is overwhelming even with the best designed systems,” Ricchi said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t have to take a good, hard look at this.”

Even with damage throughout the city, Ricchi said Lynn won’t meet the monetary threshold of damage required to receive disaster relief funding through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Ricchi said most of the flood damage to homes was in the basements, which has left the majority of residences habitable. To qualify for disaster relief, he said there has to be major structural damage with uninhabitable structures.

If there’s any funding coming in, Ricchi said the city could still qualify for small business loans from FEMA through the Small Business Administration, which administers the program. He said there is still a monetary threshold of damage the city needs to meet, which is based on uninsured losses.

“As we continue to experience increasing amounts of intense storms due to global warming, like the one (on Sunday), it is imperative that we take proactive steps to remediate their effects,” Mayor Thomas M. McGee said in a statement.

He said the city has been awarded a grant from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Planning Grant Program. McGee said the process will target the city’s coastal resiliency plans and position Lynn to be eligible for future project implementation funding.

The mayor said Lynn Water and Sewer is in the design phase of their sewer replacement, or combined sewer outflows (CSO) project, and expects work to begin next year. He said officials are also looking into conducting a city-wide flood-risk management assessment and developing investment strategies to prevent a similar massive flooding from happening in the future.

McGee said the small business loans require significant damage thresholds to be met by public infrastructure, private businesses and private homeowners. The city is asking business owners and residents to take pictures and submit them, along with a detailed inventory of material, structural and revenue losses.

Citizens should visit the city’s website through Aug. 28 for specific submission information. The city will subsequently apply to FEMA for consideration to be a disaster area.

Peabody also saw widespread flooding and damage from nearly 8 inches of rain on Sunday.

Ward 3 City Councilor James Moutsoulas said the East Peabody area he represents was spared significant flooding but he was surprised to see partial flooding on Walnut Street and some local streets that rarely see flooding.

“Even on my streets — Sprague and Collins — we had puddles,” he said, adding that improved stream and brook cleaning efforts by the city could not have offset flooding from a rainfall that dropped more than 7 inches on the city.

Item Editorial Director Thor Jourgensen contributed to this report.

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