Irene Flooding: Death Toll Rises to 40

Thousands are still stranded and without electricity for days to come.

ByABC News
August 30, 2011, 4:10 AM

Aug. 30, 2011— -- Flooding across parts of the East Coast is still a major issue after Hurricane Irene as the death toll rises to 40 across 11 states. Thousands still find themselves stranded and without electricity for days to come.

The death toll, which extended from North Carolina to Vermont, rose sharply as bodies were pulled from floodwaters and people were electrocuted by downed power lines.

Eighteen of the 40 Irene-related deaths were in the New York tristate area and New England -- seven in New Jersey, six in New York, and two in Connecticut and three in Vermont.

Some believe that not enough attention was paid to the inland regions, even though it was clear they'd be hit with massive and unbearable amounts of rain.

"More attention should have been paid to the torrential rain that Irene was going to dump not only on coastal areas but also inland. That was clear several days ahead of time," said Shaun Tanner, a meteorologist at the forecasting service Weather Underground.

Vermont, where wind gusts hit at 60 mph, is currently experiencing the worst flooding the state has seen in 84 years, which has the governor calling for "all the help we can get." At least two people are dead and one is missing in the state beset with knocked-out bridges and destroyed roadways.

Roads to a number of communities in the state remain cut off because of the flooding. A dozen bridges have been lost so far, including some of the state's iconic covered bridges.

At least 11 inches of rain was dumped on Vermont as Irene passed through. Rivers were already high from a wetter than average summer and heavy snowfall in the winter.

All Vermont state offices are closed, and the National Guard has deployed six rapid response teams.

"This event unfolded much faster than anyone anticipated," Vermont National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow said.

President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Vermont Monday morning.

"We're continuing to deal with the impact and the aftermath of Hurricane Irene," Obama said. "We're going to make sure folks have all the support they need as they begin to assess and repair the damage left by the storm."

In the 24 hours in areas north of New Jersey and in the environs of New York's Hudson River Valley, rainfall ranged from 5 to 15 inches in some places, according to a National Weather Service representative speaking on a Federal Emergency Management conference call Monday.

Serious flooding continued in New Jersey in the wake of Irene.

In Little Falls, N.J., floodwaters covered cars, and the city had set up a shelter for the 400,000 families that live in this area to ride out what would be an incredibly anxious night. The water rose at 2 inches an hour by one estimate.

"We're not out of the woods yet regarding this storm," Gov. Chris Christie told a gathering at the Raritan River in Manville, N.J. He said waters had hit record levels at nine locations and warned that the Passaic River had not yet crested.

The Passaic River in Little Falls rose overnight to 14 feet -- 7 feet above flood stage. Christine Leyva packed up her family when floodwaters reached her front door Monday.

"We just decided to leave before the flood got worse. It's really bad," she told ABC News' New York City station WABC.

The Ramapo, Pompton, Pequannock and Passaic rivers in Wayne, N.J., were also expected to crest sometime today. These rivers will remain at "major flood" levels through Thursday.

Although New York City managed to avoid a wallop from the storm, inland towns and counties upstate saw more than 13 inches of rain as the storm pummeled parts of the Hudson Valley.

Fallen branches and demolished bridges have hindered road travel across the area, while at least three towns in New York remain cut off by flooded roads and bridges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.