The full measure of Hurricane Irene's fury came into focus today as the death toll passed 44, while Vermont contended with what its governor called the worst flooding in a century, and streams also raged out of control in rural, upstate New York. At the same time, nearly 5 million homes and businesses in a dozen states were still without electricity, and utilities warned it might be a week or more before some people got their power back.
In many cases, the moment of maximum danger arrived well after the storm had passed, as rainwater made its way into rivers and streams and turned them into torrents. Irene dumped up to 11 inches of rain on Vermont and more than 13 inches in parts of New York. "We were expecting heavy rains," says one resident of Upstate New York. "We were expecting flooding. We weren't expecting devastation. It looks like somebody set a bomb off." The death toll for 11 eastern US states had stood at 21 as of last night, then rose sharply to at least 38 as bodies were pulled from floodwaters and people were struck by falling trees or electrocuted by downed power lines.