Record rainfall -- three months' worth of downpour in less than a week -- has brought parts of New England and Massachusetts' Merrimack River the area's worst levels of flooding in 70 years.
The Spicket River in Methuen, Mass., overflowed its banks, and fear that the Spicket River Dam would give way forced evacuations for miles. Meanwhile in Saugus, Mass., parents and children waited on front porches to be evacuated by boat.
"We have had inspectors out over the last several days looking at the dams in anticipation of the storm. They tried to drain water behind the dams and clear out the spillways and so forth," Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said on "Good Morning America."
"We believe the dams will hold. The Spicket River Dam is the one of most concern right now. It seems to be holding pretty well. As a precaution, we evacuated all the people who live downstream of the dam. They won't see their homes float away, but a lot of water can go into basements and first floors if that dam were to give way."
Romney said that he had requested the help of the National Guard early in the record rainfall and that 500 personnel were going through the affected communities with high-clearance vehicles.
In Merrimack, N.H., more than 60 homes were almost completely underwater. In some cases, rescuers could see only parts of rooftops.
In nearby New Market, N.H., overturned cars sat in intersections and firefighters worked feverishly to sandbag a crack in that town's dam.
"It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable," a firefighter said. "We've never had water this high here."
In Haverhill, Mass., the main sewage line broke, sending more than 150 million gallons of sewage into the river.
The sewage, Romney said, poses the most serious risk.
"It is downstream of all the water intake, so it does not affect the drinking water at all," he said, "in that town or any others. But, of course, environmentally, that sewage going into the rivers is a concern. It is going to take about two to three days for a two-mile detour of sewage to be built and assembled and put in place so we don't have to have that sewage going into the river. Long term, the impact on their shellfish beds … is something we are going to be monitoring very carefully."
In Lowell, Mass., Debbie Luna hugged family members as bagged belongings were carried from her home by boat. Inside, floodwaters crept up the basement stairs. The water was already 7 feet deep.
"Anybody who needs to be found and rescued has been found," Romney said. "There are some people staying in their homes. But at this stage, the risk, of course, is through too much water [in] the basement, causing shutdown of their electricity."
Luna said she had never seen anything like this before.
"It's a nightmare," she said.
Meteorologists blamed the storm on a powerful high pressure system to the north in Canada that was keeping it from moving east.
"It didn't move anywhere. It stayed there for three to four days," said Bernie Rayno, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.
The storm is now finally moving out, but not before reminding people of the biblical tale of a torrential rain that fell for 40 days and 40 nights.
"We sort of are making jokes about Noah [and the Ark] and taking two of each kind of animal," Romney said. "We haven't ever seen rain like this. I have lived here 35 years. Other folks who are in their 80s and 90s don't recall anything of this nature."