FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Detouring from his schedule, President Obama on Thursday thanked emergency workers struggling against disastrous flooding in the Northeast.

“When these kind of natural disasters hit, what matters are the people on the ground,” Obama told crews at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency headquarters some 20 miles west of Boston.

Joined by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Obama met with state and local emergency operations officials who are monitoring floods throughout the state.

The president thanked the workers on behalf of all Americans for their thorough response to the floods. He did not visit any flood-hit areas in his brief detour.

Obama made his unannounced stop after rallying support for his new health care law in Portland, Maine. He then darted to a pair of evening fundraisers for fellow Democrats in Boston.

At one fundraiser, Obama spoke again about the flooding in New England and pledged a coordinated government response.

“All of our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have been dislocated and are wrestling with this enormous tragedy,” he said.

Record rainfalls have caused flooding across the New England states, with Rhode Island taking the most devastating toll. Bridges and highways have washed out from Maine to Connecticut and sewage systems have been overwhelmed to the point that families were asked to stop flushing toilets.

National Guard troops were deployed in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino planned to travel to Rhode Island today to assess the damage.

Flooded tracks in Rhode Island prompted Amtrak to suspend some services in the Northeast for the second consecutive day. The major route between East Coast cities opened late Thursday afternoon.

The rains stopped Wednesday and the floodwaters began to recede in hard-hit Rhode Island, although flooding could persist for several days and permanently close businesses already struggling in the weak economy.

The flooding capped record rainfalls across the region.

Boston measured nearly 15 inches for March, breaking the previous record for the month, set in 1953. New Jersey, New York City and Portland surpassed similar records. Providence registered its rainiest month on record with more than 15 inches of rain in March.


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