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Many people on East Coast struggling to recover from Irene

NEWFANE, Vt. (AP) - Only one flooded Vermont town remained cut
off from the outside world Wednesday, but National Guard
helicopters were still dropping food and water on storm-ravaged
parts of the state as the Eastern seaboard struggled to recover
from hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Irene.
About 2 million people remained without power in water-logged
homes and businesses from North Carolina through New England, where
the storm has been blamed for at least 45 deaths in 13 states.
Raging floodwaters continued to ravage parts of northern New Jersey
on Wednesday morning, even after the state's rain-swollen rivers
crested and slowly receded.
"It's like an island now," said Falguni Purohip, who owns the
Killington Pico Motor Inn on Route 4 in Mendon, Vt., where her
family and one guest are trapped. "We can't go anywhere."
The town of Rutland is 15 miles away but impossible to reach
because of extensive road damage. Purohip said the family has power
and plenty of food and water to keep them going, but no way of
leaving. Nearly 11 inches of rain triggered the deluges, which
knocked houses off their foundations, destroyed covered bridges and
caused earthquake-style damage to infrastructure all over Vermont.
In New Jersey, the raging Passaic River crested Tuesday night,
causing extensive flooding and forcing a new round of evacuations
and rescues in Paterson, the state's third-largest city.
"Been in Paterson all my life, I'm 62 years old, and I've never
seen anything like this," said resident Gloria Moses as she
gathered with others at the edge of what used to be a network of
streets, now covered by a lake.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after touring Wayne, through
which the Passaic also flows, said Tuesday night he saw "just
extraordinary despair."
In Connecticut, the Connecticut River at Hartford crested
Tuesday evening at 24.8 feet, the highest level since 1987,
according to Nicole Belk, a hydrologist with the National Weather
Service, in Taunton, Mass. But she said levees helped minimize
flooding in riverside communities.
She said the river could still rise slightly farther south, in
Middletown, where some streets and neighborhoods were already
experiencing minor flooding.
Vermont's largest electric utility says a convoy of line crews
is headed for the town of Rochester - where a power substation was
completely destroyed by flooding - to begin work to restore power.
Officials say at least five Vermont schools are closed until
further notice and about 120 have delayed opening for the school
year because of roads or schools ravaged by flooding.
Flood control dams and basins that New England states installed
after 1955 floods helped prevent a catastrophe in the lower
Connecticut River basin, said Denise Ruzicka, director of inland
water resources for Connecticut's Department of Energy and
Environmental Protection.
In Vermont, officials focused on providing basic necessities to
residents who in many cases still have no power, no telephone
service and no way to get in or out of their towns. On Tuesday
night, 11 towns - Cavendish, Granville, Hancock, Killington,
Mendon, Marlboro, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Stockbridge, Strafford and
Wardsboro - were cut off from the outside.
But by Wednesday morning, all but one of the communities -
Wardsboro- had been reached by ground crews, and emergency
management officials were hoping to reach it shortly.
Vermont National Guard choppers made three drops in Killington,
Mendon, Pittsfield and Rochester Tuesday while 10 other towns
received truck deliveries of food, blankets, tarps and water. Eight
Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters from the Illinois National Guard
are expected to arrive Wednesday to bolster the number of flights.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate
told CBS's "The Early Show" a drawdown in assistance funds will
have no negative impact on the agency's efforts to help stricken
Eastern Seaboard states. The agency has less than $800 million left
in its disaster coffers.
In Woodstock, Vt., Michael Ricci spent the day clearing debris
from his backyard along the Ottauquechee River. What had been a
meticulously mowed, sloping grass lawn and gorgeous flower beds was
now a muddy expanse littered with debris, including wooden boards,
propane tanks and a deer hunting target.
"The things we saw go down the river were just incredible,"
Ricci said. "Sheds, picnic tables, propane tanks, furnaces,
refrigerators. We weren't prepared for that. We had prepared for
wind and what we ended up with was more water than I could
possibly, possibly have imagined." He said the water in his yard
was almost up to the house, or about 15 to 20 feet above normal.
Volunteers in Windham, N.Y., helped 26-year-old Antonia
Schreiber salvage the floors of the 200-year-old Victorian cottage
she had transformed into a luxury day spa.
The ski town, high in the Catskill Mountains, was left under
several feet of brick-red water Sunday night after a stony creek,
the Batavia Kill, grew to a raging river fueled by a foot of rain.
"Friends, loved ones, people I don't even know showed up with
trucks, bulldozers and hugs," she said as men and women scraped
and mopped around her. "The magnitude of generosity and good will
is just overwhelming."
While East Coast residents measured the cost of the storm in
waterlogged cars and ruined furniture, official predictions were
more dire.
In North Carolina, where Irene blew ashore along the Outer Banks
on Saturday before heading for New York and New England, Gov.
Beverly Perdue said the hurricane destroyed more than 1,100 homes
and caused at least $70 million in damage.
During a visit to the Catskill Mountains Wednesday, New York
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he expects damage in the state to total $1
Early Wednesday, President Barack Obama declared a major
disaster in New York, freeing up federal recovery funds for people
in eight counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary
housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured
property losses, and other programs. Irene destroyed 500 to 600
homes and thousands of acres of farmland in upstate New York.
Total losses from the storm along the U.S. Atlantic Coast -
including damage and expenses incurred by governments - are likely
to be about $7 billion, according to Jan Vermeiren, CEO of Silver
Spring, Md.-based risk consultant Kinetic Analysis Corp., which
uses computer models to estimate storm losses.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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