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Hurricane Irene leaves flooding in U.S., Canada

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Hurricane Irene leaves flooding in U.S., Canada
President Barack Obama walks with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in the Rose Garden of the White House Aug. 28, 2011, to address the nation on Hurricane Irene. UPI/Pat Benic.. | License Photo

NEW YORK, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama said federal agencies will work with states cleaning up after Irene, which left flooding, downed trees and power outages in its wake.

"It's going to take time to recover from a storm of this magnitude," Obama said Monday during a unrelated announcement. "The effects are still being felt across much of this country."

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Obama signed an emergency declaration for Vermont, which was slammed by Irene before it pushed northward into Canada.

The declaration signed for Vermont and other states affected by Irene, which at one point had been a Category 3 hurricane before it marched up the U.S. East Coast as a weaker hurricane and then tropical storm, authorizes the Homeland Security Department's Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

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"So our response continues, but I'm going to make sure that FEMA and other agencies are doing everything in their power to help people on the ground," Obama said.

Unofficially, at least 35 people died in 10 states, including a 55-year-old surfer and a 55-year-old tourist who was wading in rough surf in Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

At one point, media outlets reported, about 4 million customers were without power. Several media outlets reported damage could be anywhere from $7 billion to $10 billion.

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Remnants of Irene moved through eastern Quebec, the National Hurricane Center said in its final advisory at 11 a.m. EDT. Irene, which had deteriorated to a post-tropical depression, was about 191 miles north-northeast of Frenchville, Maine, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and moving northeast at 25 mph.

Strong winds battered parts of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces as the storm moved over eastern Canada, soaking cities, grounding flights and leaving more than 200,000 people without power, Postmedia News reported.

Quebec provincial police said one person was missing in Yamaska, northeast of Montreal, after two cars fell into a crevice created when a road washed out Monday.

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"It looks like eastern townships and areas of Quebec got the most rainfall," Chris Fogarty, manager of the Canadian Hurricane Center, said. "There were a number of stations that had [nearly 4 inches] of rain or more overnight. It's pretty significant, especially when you see the scary degree of flooding" in the United States.

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Air Canada warned of possible flight delays to Quebec City and other airports in Atlantic provinces and the United States.

Wind warnings were in effect for mainland Nova Scotia, most of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and portions of southern Quebec, and rainfall warnings were posted for most of southern and eastern Quebec, Postmedia News said.

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Public Security Minister Robert Dutil said it could be several days before officials know the actual extent of damage from the storm, The (Montreal) Gazette reported.

In the United States, worst-case scenarios didn't materialize as Irene -- hundreds of miles in diameter -- made landfall in North Carolina then lost its strength as it lumbered north. While the wind wasn't strong, the huge, plodding storm inundated states with rain and brought with it a huge storm surge.

Airports along the East Coast reopened Monday, but thousands of passengers scrambled to rebook travel after an estimated 11,238 flights were canceled, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Cleanup and damage assessment has begun along the East Coast with some estimates putting a $7 billion price tag on the storm, Jose Miranda of Eqecat Inc., a catastrophic risk management firm in Oakland, Calif., told the Times. CNN reported the damage could reach $10 billion.

Warnings for flooding and high winds were in effect for parts of the northern mid-Atlantic states into New England, the center said. What remains of the storm was forecast to exit the United States Monday and rainfall was to subside.

In New York, the mood shifted from worry to relief Sunday as joggers worked out along the East River, restaurants and other businesses reopened, and officials at the U.S. Open announced the tennis tournament would start Monday as scheduled, The New York Times reported.

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"All in all, we are in pretty good shape because of the exhaustive steps I think we took to prepare for whatever came our way," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during a news conference Sunday. Mandatory evacuations ordered for low-lying areas were lifted and the city's transit system was operating full tilt by Monday.

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