Johnston roads closed following fresh flooding; apartment building evacuated

Silver lining? Federal storm relief may be on its way for September 2023 flood event


Johnston’s emergency management officials had barely finished celebrating good news from the federal government regarding FEMA assistance when a fresh storm triggered yet another flood event in town.

A flooded Johnston apartment building was cleared of tenants and pets and the residents have offered shelter in a recently refurbished gym in town.

According to Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena Jr., “20 units had to be evacuated with the fire department using boats, which resulted in about 30 people … in total.”

“We are currently evacuating residents from the Park St. apartments with boats,” Polisena posted on social media at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10. “We are also sending another boat to the residents trapped on Belfield Drive. Our military Humvees are shuttling employees to Briarcliffe Manor.”

As of 8:40 a.m. Wednesday morning, according to Johnston Police Chief and Emergency Management Director Mark A. Vieira, several frequently flooded roads were closed off to traffic: Atwood Avenue from 1463 Atwood Ave. (area of Stop & Shop Plaza) to the area of the Route 6 overpass (the off-ramps from Route 6 to Atwood Avenue are also closed); Atwood Avenue from Simmonsville to Central avenues; River Drive at Lafazia Drive; Memorial Boulevard; and Belfield Drive.

Polisena posted updates on his social media profiles Wednesday morning: “First responders are deployed with Humvees and boats to extract people if needed.”

“Atwood Ave. from Stop & Shop to the Washington Trust is under 2-3 feet of water and closed,” Polisena wrote in an email to the Sun Rise Wednesday morning. “This includes the Rt. 6 exit ramps. Please seek an alternate route.”

According to the mayor, Atwood Avenue flooded from Stop & Shop to Bar Lino restaurant, where the water was approximately three feet deep.

All of Memorial Boulevard, the access road to Johnston War Memorial Park was under water. The intersection of Atwood and Simmonsville avenues was also swamped and closed to traffic.

“We had to evacuate the residents of the Park St. apartments (Park Plaza Apartments on Park Street) and will put them up temporarily in Rainone Gym,” Polisena said early Wednesday morning. “There’s also large-scale residential flooding throughout Johnston.”

Johnston Public Schools delayed the start of classes by two hours on Wednesday.

And Johnston Police issued an alert to town residents: “Please be vigilant during this morning’s commute and watch for flooded roads, debris, or downed power lines.”

The town has been forced to mop up after multiple major flood events over the past year, including the September tornado and subsequent flooding. And residents have barely dried out from the pre-Christmas storm on Dec. 18.

Earlier this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced a small dose of good news for those residents whose property was damaged during the “severe storms, flooding and tornadoes, Sept. 10-13, 2023.” FEMA announced federal disaster assistance will be made available to the state.

Polisena said it’s good news, but may not actually cover the town’s tornado damage.

“This is great news for Johnston,” Polisena wrote via email Tuesday morning, the day before the freshest flooding. “This is only for the Sept. 10-11 flooding event, not for the summer tornado or the … Dec. 18 flooding disaster.”

The federal help, however, may aid some Johnston homeowners.

“Assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property loss and other programs to help both residents and businesses (affected) by the disaster,” Polisena wrote. “Individuals and business owners who sustained losses can begin applying for assistance by registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-3362.”

The mayor also announced a cooperative effort with the federal government.

“Additionally, FEMA is looking to set up Disaster Recovery Centers in Providence County, where residents can meet in person with FEMA representatives,” Polisena wrote Tuesday. “As soon as we find out further details on these centers, we will inform the public.”

A FEMA press release announced, “President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Approves Major Disaster Declaration for Rhode Island.”

“The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Providence County,” according to the press release. “Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.”

FEMA named Robert V. Fogel as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the Ocean State’s affected areas.

After firefighter-manned boats finished rescuing residents and pets from the Park Plaza apartments on Wednesday morning, Polisena offered a final dispatch from the scene.

“Those evacuations concluded about mid-morning,” Polisena wrote. “We’ve worked with the Red Cross to set up an emergency shelter at Rainone gym which is fully operational. So far six residents have utilized the shelter.”

Vieira confirmed that the Park Plaza apartments, at 20 Park St. had been evacuated, and “RI Red Cross, in conjunction with the Town of Johnston, has set up an evacuation shelter for those residents at Rainone Gym located at 45 Mill St.”

By the afternoon, the number of Johnston residents in need of shelter had nearly doubled.

“At this time, approximately 10 Johnston residents are slated to utilize the shelter,” Vieira wrote via email at 2:20 p.m.

Follow flood coverage from the Johnston Sun Rise: 

Home buyouts ‘only feasible path forward’ for Johnston property owners affected by flooding?

As the town seeks funding for flood mitigation, severe weather events keep on coming

Johnston's Atwood Avenue under water following flash floods

MAYOR: ‘We’ve been waiting for over a decade for the state to mitigate the flooding on Atwood Ave.’


As Johnston looks for state and federal help, they need tornado damage estimates from property owners


The time of ignoring Tornado Warnings in the Ocean State has ended


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