Cleanup efforts have begun in communities that were devastated by Hurricane Irene over the weekend. Although trucks and supplies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are en route, access to some areas has been cut off by floodwaters that washed out or damaged roads and bridges.

“Irene was gonna land somewhere. We’re not Manhattan, our small streams quickly became big rivers,” Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin told The Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer. “We’ve lost churches, homes and historic bridges. But we will rebuild.”

Hurricane Irene made landfall on Saturday morning in North Carolina, moved northward along the coast then slammed into Little Egg Inlet, NJ, as a Category 1 storm. Despite predictions, Irene then lost steam as it lumbered toward New England. But its torrential rains and strong winds still managed to claim more than 40 lives and cause significant damage.

Life has mostly returned to normal in Washington, DC and New York City, but in other parts of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Vermont, epic floods destroyed entire towns and knocked out power to nearly five million homes and businesses. It may take several weeks for electricity to be restored in the most severely damaged areas, utility companies said. Due to a massive backlog at airports along the East Coast, travelers who were stranded by the storm could also spend the next week trying to find their way home.

Early estimates put Irene’s damage at $7 billion to $10 billion. However, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said any new money for FEMA must be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.

Tropical Storm Katia, the 11th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season, has already formed. According to the National Hurricane Center, Katia is expected to be near hurricane strength later this week.

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