Vermont, New Jersey flooded as Irene spares NYC

FAIRFIELD, N.J./BRATTLEBORO, Vt., (Reuters) – New  Jersey and Vermont struggled with their worst flooding in  decades yesterday, a day after Hurricane Irene slammed an  already soaked region with torrential rain, dragging away homes  and submerging neighborhoods underwater.

Spared from Irene’s worst fury, New York City went back to  work yesterday despite a partially crippled mass transit system  and power outages that left 100,000 customers in the  metropolitan area and nearly 1 million in the state without  electricity.

Overall, some 5.1 million homes and businesses were still  without power from North Carolina to Maine, and utilities said  it could take days to restore electricity in more accessible  areas and weeks in the hardest-hit regions.

Total economic damage could reach $20 billion, Standard &  Poor’s Senior Economist Beth Ann Bovino said. Hundreds of  thousands of homes suffered damage, raising questions about how  much would be covered by insurance as many homeowner policies  do not cover flood damage.

In Fairfield, New Jersey, about 20 homes near the Passaic  River were submerged, some in at least five feet (1.5 metres)  of water. Some people waded chest high or rode canoes down the  street, while others just sat and witnessed the flood from  their stoops.

“This is the worst flood we have ever had,” said Mike  Chiafulio, 52, who could only watch as the water continued to  rise around his mother’s house. He said the flooding exceeding  what he remembered from notable floods in 1968 and 1984.

The leafy suburb of Maplewood some 20 miles (32 km) west of  New York City was jarred by the sound of whirring generators,  sirens and pumps emptying water from flooded houses.

Hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey could be  without electricity, water supplies or gas for days to come,  their comfortable towns strewn with felled trees and branches  blocking main roadways.

“We’ve had major rains before but we’ve never had flooding  like this,” said Ben Cohen, a retired judge who lives in  Maplewood. “I can only vouch for the last 38 years but nothing  even can come close to this.”

In the town of Whippany, firefighters trained in swift  water rescue pulled two youths out of the raging Whippany  River, Deputy Fire Chief Randy Polo said.

Dumped from a raft at a man-made waterfall in the river,  one teen was clinging to a log and the other to a broken tree  limb in the thundering current, Polo said. The rescue took  about an hour, he said.

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