U.S. President Barack Obama ordered federal assistance to supplement a number of storm-battered areas and counties in New Jersey, days after Hurricane Irene hit the entire Eastern seaboard on August 27, 2011.
As flood waters recede, Northeast residents began pulling soggy furniture and ruined possessions onto their front lawns as they surveyed the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene.
On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Paterson, N.J., one of the hardest hit cities in the state.
Tide currents of the Passaic River swept through the city of 150,000 residents, flooding part of downtown and forcing the emergency evacuations of hundreds of people, authorities said.
National Guard helicopters continued to ferry supplies on Wednesday to mountain communities in Vermont that had no electricity, no telephone service and limited transportation in or out.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Craig Fugate, chief administrator of FEMA, toured areas heavily damaged by Passaic River flooding on Wednesday, the same day that the president signed a disaster declaration for five counties in the state.
Elsewhere, the massive cleanup effort was already well underway at homes, farms and businesses across the flood-scarred landscape.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials said damage surveys will continue throughout the state, and more counties may be eligible after the assessments are fully completed.
Passaic County, where Paterson is located, will be eligible for federal assistance such as grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other recovery programs.
Other counties that will also be eligible are Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic and Somerset.
Certain private nonprofit organizations may also be eligible for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Irene in the counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem.
In a statement, White House officials said federal funding would be available "on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide" to state and eligible local governments.
Swollen rivers throughout northern New Jersey, including the Passaic, Ramapo, Rahway and Pequannock, have reached or surpassed record flood levels since the storm hit over the weekend, authorities said.
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