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Irene relief gears up in Vermont, Quebec

Irene relief gears up in Vermont, Quebec
Sightseers look at the high waves on the beach in Atlantic City , New Jersey after Hurricane Irene left the area August 28, 2011. The Category One story did not damage the Jersey Shore as much as expected, however massive flooding is expected. UPI/John Anderson | License Photo

BURLINGTON, Vt., Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Federal officials and the National Guard said they were mustering supplies and manpower in rural Vermont Tuesday in response to floods caused by Irene.

Although Irene was long-past being a hurricane by the time it rolled into the state, its torrential rains caused a spate of flash floods that damaged roads and cut off mountain communities.

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"The emergency responders have been surprised by the path of the storm," Larry Bickels, a member of a FEMA squad based in Pennsylvania, told the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press. "Nobody knew that Vermont and New Hampshire would get pounded like this."

Irene, which hit the Bahamas and churned up the East Coast of the United States into Canada, caused dozens of deaths and damage estimates ranged from $7 billion to $10 billion.

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Bickels' team and 30 truckloads of supplies arrived at staging areas to prepare to move out to dozens of communities such as Rochester, where the main bridge in town collapsed and the 1,100 residents have been warned their electricity would probably be out for at least a week.

"People are really pitching in and taking care of each other. It's really amazing," resident Ross Laffan told the Free Press from one of the few high points in town where he could get cell service. "The townspeople and the fire department have just been awesome."

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Vermont was getting some help from the Midwest in the form of eight Illinois National Guard helicopters deployed to the state to help carry people and material.

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The White House said in a written statement that FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were touring the states hit by Irene to better coordinate the relief efforts with state officials.

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"The president is committed to ensuring that bureaucracy and red tape is not a factor in making sure that assistance is provided where it's needed," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday.

Canada was also in a recovery mode after Irene drenched Quebec. The storm forced the evacuation of at least 300 homes and at least one person was feared dead, authorities said.

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Nearly a quarter of a million Quebec residents were without power during the storm's height, with about 5 inches of rain dumped on some regions in just a few hours, Postmedia News reported.

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