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Record Floods Affect US Northeast After Irene

Rescue personnel bring stranded residents to shore in Montpelier, Vermont, August 28, 2011
Rescue personnel bring stranded residents to shore in Montpelier, Vermont, August 28, 2011

U.S. authorities say massive flooding has affected parts of the country's northeast, one day after a weakening Hurricane Irene swept through the region.

U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate said Monday that flooding has reached "record" levels in the states of Vermont and New York. Rivers and creeks in both states burst their banks, producing torrents of water that swept away trees, cars and parts of historic bridges. Hundreds of residents fled to shelters.

Irene first hit the United States on Friday, making landfall in the state of North Carolina, before moving along the mid-Atlantic coast on Saturday and weakening into a tropical storm over New England on Sunday.

Authorities reported 33 storm-related deaths in 10 eastern states, mostly from falling frees, road accidents and raging floodwaters. Experts say the damage is likely to total billions of dollars. Fugate said it is too early to give an official estimate because federal, state and local authorities still are assessing the destruction.

Fugate said about 5 million homes and businesses on the East Coast remained without power Monday, down from 6 million the day before. Utilities say it will take days to restore electricity to many of those customers.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday it will "take time to recover from a storm of this magnitude." At a White House event, he said FEMA and other federal bodies will do "everything in their power" to help local and state authorities with recovery efforts.

Forecasters downgraded Irene to a post-tropical storm early Monday as it moved over eastern Canada. Authorities said strong winds and heavy rain from the storm knocked out power to about 250,000 homes and businesses in Quebec and Canada's Atlantic provinces. One man was missing after floodwaters swept away a car northeast of Montreal.

Irene's center passed over New York, but spared the city major damage. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the city's airports have re-opened and a memorial to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks will open on schedule next month. But he also said about 1,000 people were in shelters and 38,000 people were without power.

City authorities ordered an unprecedented weather-related shutdown of New York's subway system on Saturday ahead of Irene's arrival, depriving millions of their main mode of transportation.

But local officials credited the closure with allowing them to re-open the subway system in time for Monday morning's rush hour. The New York Stock Exchange began its trading week on time. But flooding forced the suspension of trains connecting New York to its northern suburbs and halted most rail services in New Jersey.

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