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October 30. 2012 7:04AM

Gorham families evacuated as Peabody River reaches flood level

GORHAM - As the Peabody River reached flood level, six to eight homes on White Birch Lane were evacuated about 3 a.m. Tuesday as a precaution, according to a town official.

Chad Miller, Gorham's emergency management director, said the decision came after heavy rainfall in Pinkham Notch caused the water in the rocky bottom river to reach flood level of 6 1/2 feet. The area is prone to flooding, he said, although as of 6:30 a.m. none of the homes flooded.

Two people went to the Town Hall where an emergency shelter was set up, Miller said.

"To have people required to leave their homes is a tough call to make," he said. "It was decided to err on the side of caution."

It turned out to be a false alarm, Miller said, but he said his comment was with the benefit of hindsight.

The decision to order a mandatory evacuation, he explained, was made in part because of what happened last year during tropical storm Irene. That storm washed out the entire road and made an island out of the area, Miller said.

Since Irene, he said, the river has become unpredictable, with it rising to flood level in a matter of a couple of hours.

At 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, the water was receding but heavy rain is expected later in the day which could mean the river will be at flood level again, Miller said.

Residents have not returned to their homes, Miller said, although there is nothing to prevent them from doing that.

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