As the sun broke through for the first time in days yesterday a massive state wide clean up commenced. The three days of torrential rain brought havoc to many Massachusetts residents. Some remain homeless while countless others find themselves waist high in basement or first floor flooding water. The storm lasting this last Friday through Monday dropped more than 10 inches of rain in some parts of Eastern Massachusetts closing schools, roads, and businesses.
Major roads across the state remain closed and several rivers remain on the rise. Scott MacLeod, spokesman for Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency told reporters, “We’re still seeing a lot of communities with a lot of standing water… Most rivers are receding, but there are still a few that haven’t crested.” State officials are keeping an eye on the Ipswich, Charles, Taunton, and Mill rivers as they were expected to peak overnight and into this morning. They are keeping a particularly close watch on the Moody Street dam in Waltham where the Charles River remains high.
Governor Patrick Deval declared a state of emergency yesterday to aid in the state’s recovery. The support brought by this public announcement includes moving large pumps from out of state locations to hep in draining water from businesses and homes. It will also send the National Guard as reinforcements for the cleanup. Deval said the state must show $8.2 million in damages to receive federal aid. Home and business owners are urged to document all damages from the flood and report it to their insurance agencies. If federal aid is approved, denied claims may be partially or completely covered by the national aid.
Twenty-three schools reported delays or closings Tuesday morning as a result of flooding while 10 counties remained under a flood warning. Although the rain has come to an end, the clean up and recovery has only begun. Hopeful residents look to the shining sun as a good omen to recovery.
The Massachusetts Senate voted yesterday to ban texting while driving and to require elderly drivers to undergo regular cognitive and physical screenings every three years. The controversial bill finally made its way through the Senate with a 24 – 10 vote. The bill awaits a compromise between the House and Senate differences and lastly an approval by Governor Patrick Deval before it can be enforced by law. If this bill passes to law Massachusetts will join 19 other states that ban texting while behind the wheel. At any given time during the day in 2008 more than 800,000 drivers were using hand-held devices in their cars according to the United States Department of Transportation distracted driving website: distraction.gov.
The Senate rejected a portion of the House bill that would ban all cell phone use except by a hands-free device. The initial bill made proposed to make text messaging while driving a secondary offense, meaning an officer may only issue a citation if the driver was pulled over for a different violation than texting. The Senate rejected this as well and upgraded texting while driving to a primary offense.
The Senate’s revisions to the bill have created the following measures:
Require drivers over 75 to pass an examination of the motorist’s cognitive and physical capabilities.
Elderly drivers who fail the cognitive or physical examination may protest the RMV’s decision by taking a driving test demonstrating they hold the necessary driving skills for continued licensing.
Civil immunity would be granted to physicians and officers who report, or fail to report, an individual who demonstrated unsafe and improper use of a cell phone or is not physically capable of driving.
When a violation of the texting law has been reported to the RMV the driver’s license will be suspended.
Drivers who attain 3 surchargeable incidents in a 2 year time frame must either take a driver’s training course or face a suspended license. Current laws require this measure after 5 surchargeable incidents in a 3 year period.
Prohibits the use of cell phones for talking or texting for public transit operators.
The bills from both congressional bodies have been sent to a joint Senate and House committee to conjure a compromised version of the proposed measures. Keep an eye on the news for this piece of legislature, it is bound to affect every Massachusetts driver.