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Hurricane Irene could be among costliest storms

Hurricane Irene could be among costliest storms
A family in Ocean City , New Jersey wade through water a they walk from their home after Hurricane Irene left many flooded streets August 28, 2011. The Category 1storm did not damage the Jersey Shore as much as expected, however massive flooding is expected. UPI/John Anderson | License Photo

MONTPELIER, Vt., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- A military vehicle towing a trailer of water Wednesday reached the last of 13 Vermont towns isolated since the weekend by Irene-fueled flooding, officials said.

Vermont Public Radio reported a National Guard Humvee traversed washed-out roads to get to Wardsboro, an enclave of about 850 people in south-central Vermont. The military vehicle's arrival with much-needed drinking water elicited cheers from the townspeople.

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"It's hard to believe water what caused all this and that's the one thing we need," resident George Ellis told VPR.

The White House said Wednesday President Obama will travel to Paterson, N.J., Sunday to survey the damage left behind by Hurricane Irene.

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The New York Times reported National Guard helicopters were airlifting food, medicine, water, blankets and other supplies the stranded communities.

None of the makeshift roads used by four-wheel drive vehicles are meant for general public use, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said during a news conference Tuesday.

People will not be "able to just jump into their cars and drive out," he said.

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The governor said the state was up against a deadline to repair the approximately 260 roadways and 30 bridges damaged by the storm, although he said he couldn't offer a time line.

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"We are up against a time frame," he said. "Snow will begin flying in 12 weeks."

At least 43 deaths have been attributed to Irene, which hit North Carolina as a hurricane but struck other East Coast states as a tropical storm, CNN reported.

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As of Tuesday, about 2.85 million customers still were without power, the Department of Energy reported. Nearly 6.7 million customers initially lost power because of the storm.

Flood advisories were posted for much of New Jersey, as well as portions of Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and North Carolina.

Power failures still plagued parts of Rhode Island Wednesday morning, with National Grid reporting as many as 112,221 customers without power, the Providence Journal reported.

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In Massachusetts, 140,000 customers of National Grid and NStar were without power, The Boston Globe reported.

Obama signed disaster declarations for New Jersey, New York and North Carolina Wednesday, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by Hurricane Irene.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate traveled to New York and New Jersey Wednesday to check on response and recovery efforts there. Administration officials made similar trips to Connecticut, North Carolina, Vermont and Virginia Tuesday.

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"I think this is going to end up being a bigger event than people think it is," Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy said. "All of this is massive in scope. What the final dollar amount is, I don't know."

Irene likely will be among the costliest catastrophes in U.S. history, analysts say, adding that much of the damage may not be covered by insurance because much of the damage was caused by flooding, which is excluded from many standard insurance policies, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Insurance industry officials peg Irene's costs from $7 billion to $10 billion, largely because the hurricane cut through such a wide swath of the East Coast.

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Irene flooded cotton and tobacco crops in North Carolina, temporarily stopped shellfish harvesting in Chesapeake Bay, Va., closed sporting and entertainment venues, zapped power, snarled transit for commuters and shooed tourists off Atlantic Ocean beaches just before summer's last hurrah.

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