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Irene Moves On: Rains, Floods Inundate New England

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Severe weather warnings for the East Coast of the United States are now over as Hurricane Irene has been downgraded again and is no longer a tropical system.

Irene was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm and spared New York City the devastation many predicted, but it has not been so kind to the towns and cities in its path as it moved inland Sunday.

The force of the storm's winds diminished Sunday, but the torrential rains did not let up, swelling rivers and streams until they burst their banks in upstate New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Downtown Windham, New York was "wiped out" by flooding, with four feet of water rushing through Main Street, said Michael Scarey, the town's fire chief.

Torrential rains that started Saturday night dumped more than 10 inches of water on the normally quiet community, forcing evacuations, submerging school buses and garages, and shutting off access to the rest of the mountaintop.

West of the town, a house was ripped from its foundation and swallowed by the fast moving creek, which slammed it into a bridge.

There were similar scenes in other river towns in the storm's path Sunday, and it is feared that things will only get worse as rivers peak.

In Vermont, Brattleboro, Bennington, Montpelier and other towns had flooding from swollen rivers.

Irene did not cause quite the level of destruction many feared as it churned up the East Coast this weekend, but it packed enough punch to leave at least 20 dead, millions without power and an estimated $7 billion to $13 billion in damages.

After roaring through coastal North Carolina on Saturday, Irene raked the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey before hitting New York Sunday morning as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds.  By 10 a.m. Sunday, patches of blue sky and sunshine began peeking through in lower Manhattan.

In New York City, the 370,000 residents who were ordered to evacuate their homes were allowed to return on Sunday beginning at 3 p.m.

Close to 2 million people lost power in the New York City area.  The National Grid reported that 19,000-plus homes in Rhode Island lost power, and 6,000-plus homes were without power in Massachusetts.

In lower Manhattan at Wall Street and South Street, water from New York's East River breached the seawall Sunday morning, but has since receded.

Some areas are still prone to tidal flooding and heavy rains will be the ongoing issue as the storm passes through New England Sunday to eastern Canada overnight, FEMA officials said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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