By Chris Barrett
PBN Staff Writer
Ron Nunes must look only across his construction yard to see the remains of the March 2010 floods. Intermingled with the trees and brush by the Pawtuxet River lie swing sets, bundles of lumber and other debris swept away by the river that raged a year ago.
Nearby, inside the offices of R.T. Nunes and Sons, office workers still labor to peel apart paper records soaked by water from the river that reached as high as 2 feet in the building. His office was ruined, his stockpiles of construction materials outside washed away. The financial toll stands at $200,000, and rising.
“I’m still picking up the pieces,” Nunes said recently.
The memory of the flooding may have receded in the minds of many Rhode Islanders. But the effects of the downpour in late March 2010 – after an earlier storm that month – are still fresh for businesses struck by floods that shut down Interstate 95, temporarily closed the Warwick Mall, forced the deployment of the R.I. National Guard and caused what then-Gov. Donald L. Carcieri estimated at tens of millions dollars in damage.
Major flooding occurred along the Blackstone River in northern Rhode Island, the Pawcatuck River in the southwestern corner of the state and the Pawtuxet River that cuts through the state’s densely populated urban core.
Pictures of the flooding bring back painful memories for Kate Smith, co-owner of Kalastyle, a Cranston-based soap distributor flooded when the Pawtuxet rose to 20.7 feet, more than double the flood-stage level.
The rushing waters sent pallets of goods weighing hundreds of pounds zooming around the first floor. Industrial shelving fell like dominos, and dirty water swamped stocks of goods. In a storage closet, Smith’s only pictures of her deceased father and photos of her children as babies became soggy pieces of worthless paper.
In the end, the water caused $91,000 in damage to the building and destroyed $243,000 in inventory. It could take years, Smith said, to recover from the financial hit.
“You really find out when something like that hits what you’re made of and who your friends are,” she said.
When the water finally receded, it left behind raw sewage that settled and caked into lumps. A year later, Smith and her employees still find small cakes of sludge that escaped the cleanup launched after the flood.