Around the nation: Vermont battles floods in Irene's aftermath

Firefighter Mandy Drake clears a storm drain in front of the fire department in Waterbury, Vt., in the wake of tropical storm Irene on Monday, August 29, 2011. The building was evacuated as high water from the Winooski River flooded downtown Sunday.
Firefighter Mandy Drake clears a storm drain in front of the fire department in Waterbury, Vt., in the wake of tropical storm Irene on Monday, August 29, 2011. The building was evacuated as high water from the Winooski River flooded downtown Sunday.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont 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 storm killed at least two dozen people, forced the cancellation of about 9,000 flights, washed away roads and bridges and toppled trees and power lines.

It never became the big-city nightmare forecasters and public officials had warned about, but it caused severe flooding in New England, well inland from the coastal areas that bore the brunt of the storm'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, limited bus service began Sunday and subway service was partially restored at 6 a.m. Monday. Commuter rail service to Long Island and New Jersey was being partially restored, but trains from the city's northern suburbs were suspended because of flooding and mudslides.

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.

At least 25 people died in the U.S., most of them when trees crashed through roofs or onto cars. One Vermont woman was swept away and feared drowned in the Deerfield River.

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.

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Hurricane Irene has led to the deaths of at least 33 people in 10 states:

 

CONNECTICUT: 2

 

— In Prospect, 89-year-old Charlotte Levine was killed early Sunday when a falling tree limb pulled power lines onto her house and started a fire.

 

— In Bristol, 46-year-old Shane Seaver died after he and another man went canoeing down a flooded street and the canoe capsized. Seaver's body washed ashore late Sunday in Plainville.

 

FLORIDA: 2

 

— In Volusia County, 55-year-old Frederick Fernandez died Saturday off New Smyrna Beach after he was tossed off his board by massive waves caused by Irene.

 

— In Flagler County, 55-year-old tourist James Palmer of New Jersey died Saturday in rough surf.

 

MARYLAND: 1

 

— In Queen Anne's County, Md., 85-year-old Anne Bell was killed when a tree knocked a chimney through the glass roof of the sunroom where she was sitting.

 

MASSACHUSETTS: 1

 

— In Southbridge, 52-year-old public works employee Richard Gorgone was electrocuted Monday morning when he touched a railing on his front porch that had become electrified by downed power lines, officials said.

 

NEW JERSEY: 6

 

— Michael Kenwood, an emergency medical technician, died of injuries after being knocked over by floodwaters in Princeton.

 

— Celena Sylvestri, 20, of Quinton, called her boyfriend and then 911 early Sunday seeking help getting out of her flooded car in Pilesgrove, police said. Her body was found eight hours later in the vehicle, about 150 feet off the road, police said.

 

— The body of Ronald Dawkins, a 47-year-old postal worker, was found about two hours after he abandoned his partially submerged vehicle early Sunday and stepped into a hidden drainage creek, Kearny police said.

 

— Scott Palecek, 39, was walking in Wanaque when a pipe broke loose and swept him away in floodwaters Sunday, police said.

 

— The body of Jorge Hernandez, 25, of Point Pleasant Beach, was found Monday morning in a Manasquan River inlet jetty. Authorities think he might have gone there to watch the storm.

 

— The body of another man was found in Manasquan River inlet in Point Pleasant Beach on Monday afternoon. His identity was not immediately determined.

 

NEW YORK: 5

 

— Rozalia Gluck, 82, of Brooklyn, drowned in a cottage in the Catskills community of Fleischmanns that was swamped by floodwaters from a nearby creek.

 

— A man in his 50s was electrocuted in Spring Valley when he tried to help a child who had gone into a flooded street with downed wires.

 

— Sharon Stein, 68, drowned in a creek as she and her husband were evacuating their New Scotland home Sunday afternoon, state police said.

 

— Police in Suffolk County say 68-year-old Joseph Rocco of East Islip drowned while windsurfing in Bellport Bay.

 

— One man died after his inflatable boat capsized on the Croton River, police said.

 

— The body of 68-year-old Jose Sierra, of the Bronx, was pulled out of the water at a marina Sunday afternoon. He accidentally drowned, authorities said.

 

NORTH CAROLINA: 6

 

— A man was killed in Nash County after a tree limb fell on him outside his home Saturday morning.

 

— Goldsboro police say a 15-year-old girl from northern Virginia died Saturday after the SUV carrying her and family members collided with another SUV at an intersection where Irene had knocked out power to traffic lights.

 

— Authorities in Pitt County say a man was found dead in his home after Irene's winds toppled a tree onto his house.

 

— Another man in Pitt County drove through standing water, went off a road and died after striking a tree on Saturday.

 

— A mother in Sampson County died Saturday morning when a tree fell on a car carrying her.

 

— New Hanover County deputies recovered the body Sunday of Melton Robinson Jr., who had been missing since falling or jumping into the Cape Fear River.

 

PENNSYLVANIA: 5

 

— Michael Scerarko, 44, was killed Sunday when a tree fell on him in his yard.

 

— A 58-year-old Harrisburg man was killed Sunday morning when a tree toppled onto his tent, state police said.

 

— A man in a camper was crushed by a tree in northeastern Pennsylvania's Luzerne County, officials said.

 

— A motorist was killed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when he lost control of his car during the storm in Carbon County, skidded over an embankment and hit a tree.

 

— The body of 64-year-old Patricia O'Neill, of East Norriton, was discovered Sunday afternoon in the Wissahickon Creek, around a half-mile from where her car was found in the flooded waterway.

 

VERMONT: 1

 

— The body of a man believed to be one of two who had been checking Sunday afternoon on the intake of Rutland's water system was recovered Monday.

 

VIRGINIA: 4

 

— Newport News authorities reported that 11-year-old Zahir Robinson was killed when a tree crashed through his apartment.

 

— In Brunswick County, a tree fell across a car Saturday afternoon, killing 67-year-old James Blackwell of Brodnax.

 

— Chesterfield County police say a man died at a Hopewell hospital Saturday after a tree fell on a house he was in.

 

— A King William County man, 57-year-old William P. Washington, was killed when a tree fell on him as he was cutting another tree Saturday night.

 

A man walks on top of a wall next to a flooded highway in New Brunswick, N.J., Aug. 28, 2011, as heavy rains left by Hurricane Irene are causing inland flooding of rivers and streams.
A man walks on top of a wall next to a flooded highway in New Brunswick, N.J., Aug. 28, 2011, as heavy rains left by Hurricane Irene are causing inland flooding of rivers and streams.

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