Michael Mallia of Mallia’s Trucking tows a car on Crowninshield Street in Peabody last night. Betty Moore, who was driving a friend’s car, got stuck trying to get to Lowell Street. “I’m used to driving an SUV,” Moore, a former bus driver, said. “I just thought I could make it across.”

PEABODY -- Frozen ground, ice-blocked drains and lots of rain threatened to create a familiar scene in downtown Peabody yesterday. Some neighborhoods were hit hard with residents evacuated as floodwaters surrounded their homes.

But television crews had to search harder than usual for footage of flooded streets as yesterday's midday deluge receded quickly.

"Things are in pretty good shape," Mayor Michael Bonfanti said in the afternoon, after the rain eased off. Any success, he said, can be traced in part to $1.5 million spent over the past year on cleaning and widening drains and culverts.

But in the vicinity of the aptly named Fountain Street, some requested and received evacuation, and cars sat half-submerged. Space was set aside for people at the Torigian Community Life Center, but in the end no one used it.

At the height of the storm, a worried Nicole Weisbord paced her porch as water from nearby Strongwater Brook completely surrounded her house.

"I've got an infant inside," she said, wondering if she, too, should be evacuated.

Weisbord blamed the flooding on debris blocking the pipe that contains the brook as it passes beneath Main Street. "A television floated down there." It was added to other materials clogging the pipe.

"I was surprised to see that much water there," said Ward 2 Councilor Arthur Athas, explaining that he'd been assured that the pipe was recently cleaned. "I know that's probably the lowest point in the area."

He promised to look into the possibility that the pipe was blocked.

Wilmer Maanaivido of Lynn wound up calling a tow truck after he made an unsuccessful attempt to get a friend's car down flooded Pierpont Street. It promptly stalled. A native of Guatemala, Maanaivido laughed when asked if he saw this kind of rain back in his tropical homeland. "Yes."

But others noted improvements as water on chronically flooded Walnut Street seemed to subside more quickly than in the past. At the height of the storm, police closed the street while water came gushing from manholes. By early afternoon, water levels were dropping quickly enough that the barriers came down.

Serious problems were restricted to certain streets, Bonfanti said, among them Endicott, Jordan Road, Pierpont and part of Foster Street. The Fire Department answered 35 calls for pumping out basements and expected that number to total 50 by the end of the day.

Extra people were on duty at Public Services and Homeland Security boss Chris Tighe and mayor's aide Sean Fitzgerald patrolled the city, troubleshooting. Employees were at work on drains starting in the early morning. "Guys have been out straight," Bonfanti said, while conceding they can't be everywhere.

He promised that more will be done to address the flooding problem once funds become available. Another key to yesterday's improvement is, he said, "People are starting to help. They know enough to keep the drains clean."

For his part, the mayor said, he went at the drain a few doors from his house with an edger.

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