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"It wreaked havoc": Leominster flash floods leave path of buckled roads, sinkholes

Leominster flash floods leave path of buckled roads, sinkholes
Leominster flash floods leave path of buckled roads, sinkholes 02:57

LEOMINSTER - When the water subsided from unexpected flash floods in Leominster on Monday, what was left shocked longtime residents. 

"We have never seen anything like this," said Maureen Clapp. Leominster Police kept an updated list of road closures, of which there were more than a dozen throughout the city. Some roads buckled upward; others formed massive sinkholes.

As crews got to work Tuesday, the priority was on the busiest roads.

"It wreaked havoc," Fire Chief Robert Sideleau said. "It was incredible."

Leominster floods
Crews work to repair Washington Street in Leominster a day after catastrophic flooding.  CBS Boston

The sinkholes and buckled roads also created a unique challenge for first responders as they worked to rescue people throughout the quick storm and in its aftermath navigate closed roads.

"If we get a call, the dispatchers will walk the crews through, reminding them what roads are closed and what routes to take to get to the calls," Chief Sideleau explained.

Crews race to make repairs after floods in Leominster 03:36

How did such a quick storm create such havoc so quickly? "With the changing climate, and then we have more extreme weather, not just storms but extreme weather," Worcester Polytechnic Institute Professor Mingjiang Tao explained to WBZ. 

The extreme weather, from repeat rain soaking the materials underground, to the heat, can make our old streets vulnerable. "Naturally, material expands, and when heat is up especially continuously with recent heat waves," he explained. "And so, when there is too much heat and then medium to too much expansion, then there is nowhere to go naturally but up," which is most likely the cause for roads that buckle up, he said. 

As of Tuesday night, there was no estimated time for restoration of the roads in Leominster just yet.

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