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New England Battles Floods In Irene's Aftermath (LIVE UPDATES, VIDEO)

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By DAVE GRAM, Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- New England towns battled floods of historic proportions, utility crews struggled to restore power to 5 million people along the East Coast, and big-city commuters coped with transit-system disruptions Monday as the rainy remnants of Hurricane Irene finally spun into Canada.

The death toll climbed to 35 people in 10 states after a number of bodies were pulled from the floodwaters in the Northeast.

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The storm never became the big-city nightmare forecasters and public officials had warned about. But it toppled trees and power lines and washed away roads and bridges - some of them well inland from the coastal areas that bore the brunt of Irene's winds.

In Vermont and upstate New York, normally placid streams turned into raging torrents tumbling with tree limbs, cars and parts of bridges.

Hundreds of Vermonters were told to leave their homes after Irene dumped several inches of rain on the landlocked state. Gov. Peter Shumlin called it the worst flooding in a century, and the state was declared a federal disaster area.

Communities were cut off, roads washed out, and at least a dozen bridges lost, including at least three historic covered bridges.

"We prepared for the worst and we got the worst in central and southern Vermont," Shumlin said Monday. "We have extraordinary infrastructure damage."

Video posted on Facebook showed a 141-year-old covered bridge in Rockingham, Vt., swept away by the roiling, muddy Williams River. In another video, an empty car somersaulted down a river in Bennington.

"It's pretty fierce. I've never seen anything like it," said Michelle Guevin, who spoke from a Brattleboro restaurant after leaving her home in nearby Newfane.

Officials at one point thought they might have to flood the state capital, Montpelier, to relieve pressure on a dam. But by Monday morning that threat had eased.

President Barack Obama, speaking from the Rose Garden, pledged the federal government would be doing everything in its power to ensure people have what they need to get back on their feet, saying it will take time to recover from the storm.

Across the Northeast, commuters coped with slowly restarting transit systems as the workweek began.

In New York City, the nation's largest mass transit system returned to life early Monday with bus service and all subways up and running by midday. Commuter rail service to Long Island and New Jersey was being partially restored, and trains from the city's northern suburbs were to reopen on a limited basis later Monday. Commuter trains from New Jersey were not running.

Riders were warned to expect long lines and long waits, but early commuters reported empty subways and smooth rides.

Mentor Vargas, 54, said he made his 40-minute trip on a New York subway train without incident. "It seems people aren't going to work today," he said on his way to work at a repair company in Staten Island.

Likewise, Philadelphia's transit system was mostly restarted Monday, though some train lines weren't running because of downed trees and wire damage.

Utilities scrambled to restore power across the Eastern Seaboard with help from thousands of out-of-state repair crews, but it could be days before the lights are back on in some homes.

Irene smashed power poles, ripped transmission wires and flooded electrical stations over the weekend, blacking out more than 7.4 million homes and businesses from South Carolina to Maine. Nearly 5 million power customers remained in the dark.

The New York Stock Exchange was open for business as usual Monday.

Airports in New York and around the Northeast reopened to a backlog of hundreds of thousands of passengers whose flights were canceled over the weekend.

One private estimate put damage along the coast at $7 billion, far from any record for a natural disaster.

Irene had at one time been a major hurricane, with winds higher than 110 mph as it headed toward the U.S. It was a tropical storm with 65 mph winds by the time it hit New York. It had broken up and slowed to 50 mph by the time it reached Canada.

Chris Fogarty, director of the Canadian Hurricane Centre, warned of flooding and wind damage in eastern Canada and said the heaviest rainfall was expected in Quebec, where about 250,000 homes were without power.

Communities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania along the Delaware River prepared for possible flooding but got a bit of good news Monday when the National Weather Service lowered the expected crest level of the river. In Pennsylvania, the Schuylkill River was steadily dropping.

In Pompton Lakes, N.J., a house exploded in an evacuated flood zone early Monday. No injuries were reported. Officials said natural gas service had not been turned off in the neighborhood.

In the South, authorities still were not sure how much damage had been done but expressed relief that it wasn't worse.

"Thank God it weakened a little bit," said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who toured a hard-hit Richmond neighborhood where large, old-growth trees uprooted and crushed houses and automobiles.

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Samantha Gross, Beth Fouhy, Samantha Bomkamp, Verena Dobnik, Jonathan Fahey, Tom Hays, Colleen Long and Larry Neumeister in New York; Brock Vergakis in Virginia Beach, Va.; Marc Levy in Chester, Pa. and Jeff McMillan in Philadelphia; and Seth Borenstein and Christopher S. Rugaber in Washington.

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AP reports:

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- The full measure of Hurricane Irene's fury came into focus Monday as the death toll jumped to 38, New England towns battled epic floods and millions faced the dispiriting prospect of several days without electricity.

Full story here.

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Southampton Patch posts aerial photos of erosion suffered by Hamptons beaches. The photos can be viewed here.

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@ GOOD : Irene wasn't overhyped: It's already the fourth deadliest storm in the last 30 years. http://t.co/VZvHYc5

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@ ErnestScheyder : Swimming officially banned at all NYC's beaches after #irene as storm swept a lot of #sewage into waterways. #dogdaysofsummer

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According to Associated Press, 35 deaths have been confirmed in 10 states. Update here.

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@ robmarcianoCNN : Still no power at my folks place in CT. Mom says last night was their first candle light dinner in decades.

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@ NYCMayorsOffice : Most NYC animal shelters resuming services. Adopt a #ShelterPet from @NYCACC or @Bideawee or by searching @ShelterPets. #IrenePets

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The animation below, taken from 48 hours of images from NASA's GOES-13 satellite between August 27 and August 29, shows Irene passing over New York and New England and entering Canada.

NASA/NOAA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters

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Democracy Now! reports:

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin joins us for an update from Vermont, where nearly every community is surrounded by hills and valleys, with small streams feeding into rivers. Shumlin notes that since he was sworn into office seven months ago, "this is the second major disaster as a result of storms. We had storms this spring that flooded our downtowns and put us through many of the same exercises that we’re going through right now. We didn’t used to get weather patterns like this in Vermont. The point is, we in the colder states are going to see the results of climate change first."

Read the report here.

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The Associated Press reports:

CHESTER, Vt. — Officials say more than a dozen towns in Vermont and at least three in New York are cut off, with roads and bridges washed out by flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Irene.

Chris Cole of Vermont's Agency of Transportation says Monday that towns in the central and southern part of the state have been isolated by the storm.

In New York, the towns of Keene in the Adirondacks, and Windham and Phoenicia in the Catskills are effectively isolated by damage to roads and bridges.

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Expert forecasters misjudged the severity of Irene as it barreled toward the East Coast of the United States late last week. It weakened considerably by the time it hit New York.

Although some have claimed the Mayor, and Governor Cuomo, who ordered the city's subways be shut down Saturday, overreacted to Irene, the resounding general consensus is that the Mayor's 'better safe than sorry' strategy was one that worked for New York.

Read more here.

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Watch Gov. Cuomo's live briefing here.

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Reisterstown Patch reports:

More than 450,000 households in Maryland remained without power 35 hours after peak rain and winds from Hurricane Irene hit the state, and the Baltimore area could experience outages until Friday, officials said Monday.

More here.

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Princeton Patch reports that Princeton EMT Michael Kenwood died early Sunday after braving Hurricane Irene floods during a water rescue. More here.

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Cranford, New Jersey Patch reports:

Cranford officials have asked the state of New Jersey and PSE&G to give Cranford "priority status" as residents begin the daunting task of asessing the damage to their homes and cleaning the mess left in Hurrican Irene's wake.

Mayor Dan Aschenbach spent the majority of his time late Sunday and Monday touring the township to assist with cleanup and rescue efforts.

Read the full story here.

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, HuffPost has compiled video footage from the disaster.

In the video below, a car floats down the river in Bennington, Vermont:

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Middleton, Connecticut Patch reports that Illiano's Pizzeria remained open on Sunday, and managed to serve hundreds of pizzas, despite the fact that they had lost power.

Read the story here.

Video courtesy of Darrell Lucas WATCH:

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Follow Hurricane Irene's path along the East Coast with this interactive map.

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Submit your photos to HuffPost's Irene slideshow.

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Ossining-Croton Patch's Christopher Michael McHugh reports on a rafting trip during the storm that ended in disaster.

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From AP:

Utility crews scrambled to restore power after Hurricane Irene raked across the Eastern Seaboard. But even with help from thousands of out-of-state repair crews, power companies say it may be days before some people see the lights back on.

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@ nickconfessore : Raw footage of @NYGovCuomo's first aerial survey of #irene damage via @stateofpolitics. More footage later. http://t.co/yxVHleC

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From HuffPost's John Celock:

The Army Corps of Engineers will be touring the Somerset County, NJ communities of Bound Brook and Manville today. Both communities were hit with flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Both towns have a history of flooding, including during after Hurricane Floyd hit New Jersey in 1999.

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We asked, and you responded. Here's a sample of what Huffington Post readers saw during and after Irene.

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@ NYCMayorsOffice : Hundreds of Con Ed crews are on the streets working to restore service to about 38,000 NYC customers currently without #power.

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The New York Times describes the scene in a school gym shelter over the weekend:

The sleepover was an international scene. Guests spoke English, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian and Farsi.

Lying on a cot next to her mother and her aunt, Kimia Shahandeh, 25, studied for the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or Toefl, and dipped in and out of “Funny in Farsi,” a memoir by an Iranian immigrant to the United States. Azadeh Lassman, Ms. Shahandeh’s aunt, chatted in Farsi with her sister and tore up pieces of paper to make a deck of cards.

Read the full story here.

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The Associated Press reports:

NEW YORK -- Wireless networks fell quiet Sunday in some coastal areas of North Carolina and southern Virginia, but calls were going through in most areas affected by Tropical Storm Irene, the Federal Communications Commission said.

In Lenoir, Greene and Carteret counties of North Carolina, 50 percent to 90 percent of cell towers went offline, said Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett, head of the public safety bureau of the Federal Communications Commission.

More here.

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@ breakingirene : Vermont State Police confirm second death in Wilmington area following devastating flooding - Burlington Free Press http://t.co/xM7Y9AM

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The Brattleboro Reformer provides a video slideshow of images from around Windham County, Vermont.

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Boston.com/Boston Globe report:

@ BostonUpdate : Irene's 1st fatality in Mass; public works employee in Southbridge electrocuted by downed power line at home http://t.co/ZLYC7BZ #MAIrene

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