* Clear skies aid Northeast rescue efforts
* Air and rail traffic creeping back to normal
* Roads in Vermont cut off from flooding as rivers crest
* New Jersey suburbs under water while nearby NYC buzzes
* Economic losses in working class communities mount
(Repeats to fix typo in word "homes" in lede)
(Adds Governor Christie's comments)
By Grant McCool
PATERSON, N.J., Aug 30 Emergency workers
plucked dozens of residents from doorways and windows as
Hurricane Irene's floodwaters rose on Tuesday, swallowing
homes, submerging cars and turning the streets of this working
class town into lakes.
While Hurricane Irene's paralyzing rampage through the U.S.
Northeast largely spared New York City, it caused the worst
flooding in decades in inland areas of New York state, New
Jersey and Vermont. The storm has been blamed for the deaths of
about 40 people.
Search and rescue teams working in Paterson, New Jersey
have pulled nearly 600 people from homes in recent days with
the most intense efforts on Tuesday when the Passaic River
measured 13 feet (4 metres) above flood stage, the highest
level since 1903, said Paterson police Sgt. Alex Popov.
Firefighters rescued some by boat and the National Guard
saved others by truck, taking them to a Red Cross shelter.
"Some are standing there in the doorway. Some are coming
out of their windows," Popov said.
"It's raging," he said of the Passaic, which runs through
the center of town, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) outside New
Along the banks of the swollen, rushing brown river,
residents sought to save what they could from homes submerged
in waist-high water. Others stood along the river's edge,
snapping pictures of the devastation.
"I'm from this area and this is the worst that I've seen
here, the farthest up this water has come," said Peter Hennen,
63, who traveled from south Jersey to help his son, a homeowner
in Paterson, rig up pumps to remove water.
"Everybody thought the (Jersey) shore was going to be
devastating," he said. "But people here forgot about the media
telling them the storm's 500 miles wide, so the rest of Jersey
Authorities expected the river to begin receding later on
TAKE A LOOK on Irene [ID:nSTORM]
Vermont flooded after torrential rain [ID:nN1E77S0N2]
Storm map: link.reuters.com/zyw43s
Reuters Insider: link.reuters.com/tuz43s
Clear skies in the U.S. northeast aided rescue efforts, but
hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged, some swept away by
rivers already swollen by an unusually wet summer.
Irene hit North Carolina as a hurricane and moved north
over major East Coast cities, then weakened to a tropical storm
over New England and dissipated after tracking into Canada.
Some of the worst damage was not along the coast, but in
towns located inland.
In Vermont, officials planned to airlift food and water to
towns cut off by the floodwaters. Some 260 Vermont roads
remained closed and the state was beginning to deploy crews of
workers, backed up by the National Guard, to repair them.
Vermonters already beaten down by the prolonged U.S.
economic slump saw homes and cars washed away, and were then
faced with washed out roads that complicated their recovery
from the state's worst flooding in more than 80 years.
"Economically, I'm devastated," said Betsey Reagan, owner
of Dot's Diner in West Dover, Vermont. "Who knows what is going
to happen? ... We'll miss the (autumn) foliage season, who
knows what the winter is going to be like? Tourists can't come
if the roads aren't open."
The timing of the storm, at the end of summer and before
the Labor Day holiday weekend, was particularly troubling for
business owners whose peak season comes in the fall and winter
when visitors flock to see forests turn color and for skiing.
The state planned to distribute food and water to towns cut
off from supplies due to road outages. In some cases those
supplies would be airlifted in, said Mark Bosma, a spokesman
for the Vermont Division of Emergency Management.
"THE WORST ONE"
In New York City, the streets buzzed anew, the bustle
slowed only temporarily by an unprecedented preemptive shutdown
of its mass transit system and Saturday's evacuation order.
Utilities restored electricity to roughly half the 6.7
million customers who had power knocked out, and New York City
mass transit and air travel crept back to normal.
The New Jersey suburbs were another matter. Train service
returned to normal, but many commuters remained at home
assessing damage to flooded basements, clearing out downed tree
branches or, in the worse cases, waiting for waters to recede.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said flooding would
likely continue over the next 48 hours.
"For members of these communities who have lost everything,
relief cannot come soon enough for them," he said after a tour
of the flooded area. "We can't fathom what these folks have
been going through."
In Wayne, New Jersey, Mike Holland, 44, paddled his canoe
away from his trailer home. The water was so deep that three
cars were almost completely submerged on his street, which like
several others resembled a small lake.
Holland said he was used to floods but that "this is the
"I had raised my trailer for the height of the 1984 flood
plus 8 inches (20 cm) but this was the '84 flood plus 12. It's
an easy fix but it's a pain," Holland said.
Marguerite Ball, another resident of Wayne, described the
flooding as "heartbreaking" for the working class area.
"I've never seen flooding like has taken place in the last
few years," Ball said. "People just get cleaned out, cleaned
up, rebuild -- and it happens again and again."
Two hours north, in Windham, New York, a town of about
1,700 known for its ski resort, the main street was swamped
with deep muddy ditches, sidewalks had disappeared and debris
was piled high.
"Where do you start?" said one National Guardsman,
surveying damage in the heart of the ski town.
Irene killed around 40 people in 11 states, in addition to
three who died in the Dominican Republic and one in Puerto Rico
when the storm was still in the Caribbean, authorities said.
Total economic damage could reach $20 billion, said
Standard & Poor's Senior Economist Beth Ann Bovino.
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. [ID:nN1E77S0KB]
U.S. President Barack Obama pledged aid for cash-strapped
states and cities, but the federal money was not expected to
cover all the costs for local jurisdictions already facing a
(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Vermont, Dave Warner
in New Jersey, Dan Wiessner in New York, Joan Gralla in New
York; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Paul Thomasch; Editing by
Jackie Frank and Todd Eastham)