Image: Friends and family work to clean J.J. Banko's Seafood Restaurant
Kristen Mullen  /  AP
Friends and family work to clean J.J. Banko's Seafood Restaurant in West Nanticoke, Pa., on Sunday, Sept. 11. As Pennsylvania residents clean up after flooding that drove tens of thousands from their homes and may have killed as many as 13 people, officials were urging caution and asking people to report and document flood-related damage and expenses.
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updated 9/12/2011 3:47:46 PM ET 2011-09-12T19:47:46

Recovery efforts in the aftermath of flooding from tropical storm Lee focused Monday on reopening roads and bridges, cleaning the grimy layer of mud from receding waters and tallying up the millions of dollars in damage wrought by days of downpour last week.

For people in riverside towns prone to flooding, it felt familiar.

"The long haul now will be the money thing, the estimating, the recording, getting estimates on different things," said Tunkhannock Mayor Norm Ball, a northeastern Pennsylvania town where parts of the business district were inundated by high waters from the Susquehanna River and tributaries. "It's quite a process — I've dealt with it before."

In Pennsylvania, about 1,400 customers were still without power, 223 roads remained closed, and 18 state and local bridges had damage, with another 64 on a precautionary list, emergency officials said Monday. The state was establishing a joint task force to coordinate recovery efforts, with disaster response centers to be located in affected areas.

The unconfirmed death toll stood at 13, a figure that could change as death certificates are issued.

Story: Pa. flood mark revised; levees in 'extreme stress'

Preliminary damage assessments were being conducted on the ground and by air because parts of the state remain inaccessible, said Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesman Cory Angell.

"You don't just open a road when the water goes away," Angell said. "You have to inspect, find out what damage has occurred. Is the bridge stable, for example."

He urged people with losses to report them to their local governments because the dollar value factors into the state's eligibility for federal relief.

New Cumberland, across the Susquehanna from Harrisburg, lifted its state of emergency Monday after the Yellow Breeches Creek, a tributary of the river, returned to its banks, said borough council president Jack Murray.

In some places, the flooding left a 2-inch layer of mud, and workers have been spraying down roadways to clean it up. About a dozen structures had major damage, he said, but most people got out well before the high water hit.

"We had great cooperation from the people who live in the area that was flooded," Murray said. "We only had to tow one car, and my understanding (is) that was people who had to leave quickly."

In York County, bordered by the Susquehanna and the Maryland line, preliminary figures showed 19 homes or businesses were destroyed by flooding, along with another 146 with major damage and some 600 with minor damage, county officials reported.

Residents of Pine Grove, a small town in Schuylkill County where the Swatara Creek became a raging river and flooded about 200 homes, were placing ruined belongings by the curb, ripping up soggy carpeting and drywall, and pondering how long it will take them to recover from the worst flooding in perhaps a century.

Kelly Maher and Jeff McCurdy, a couple with two children under age 10, were overwhelmed by the task.

Their newly renovated first floor took on four feet of water, but they did not have flood insurance and he was recently laid off from his job at a masonry company. They lost furniture, a TV, a computer, all of their kitchen appliances and cabinets, important documents.

McCurdy, 43, ripped away wall paneling to expose soggy wall studs that have already begun to grow mold. He questioned whether it's even worth rebuilding.

"I'm afraid it won't be safe for the kids," he said Monday. "What happens in six months?"

"I haven't cried yet. I'm still in shock," said Maher, 31, who works in accounting at, of all places, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. "It's as depressing as it gets."

Throughout the Northeast, residents and officials were surveying damage, working on recovery and in some cases, still coping with high waters.

It could be Wednesday before the Passaic River in New Jersey falls below flood stage, forecasters said. Moderate flooding was occurring, and a flood warning was in place at two places along the river, Pine Brook and Little Falls.

In Port Deposit, Md., a few roads were opened on a limited basis Sunday, but the town still required residents along those roads to get permission before returning home. Most of the 1,000 residents had been told to evacuate because of flooding expected from the opening of flood gates at the Conowingo Dam to relieve pressure on the Susquehanna.

In hard-hit Binghamton in southern New York, some residents were being allowed to return home during daylight to begin cleaning up. Schools and businesses were reopening Monday, and classes were resuming at Binghamton University, the Press and Sun-Bulletin reported.

In Apalachin, in Tioga County just west of Binghamton, residents slogged through thick layers of mud as they returned home to check on their properties, many of which are likely to be condemned, officials said.

"Everything in my house is pretty much garbage," John Prosinski, 41, told the newspaper. "I'd rather not come back, but my daughter is in first grade. She loves her school."

___

Rubinkam reported from Pine Grove.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Susquehanna River crests at a record 42.7 feet

  1. Closed captioning of: Susquehanna River crests at a record 42.7 feet

    >>> now to the latest natural disaster we have been covering. in the northeast, entire towns are still submerged after the double jeopardy of flooding from hurricane irene and now tropical storm lee . the susquehanna river is moving massive amounts of water tonight. new york, virginia and maryland are experiencing major flooding and the river reached record flooding in pennsylvania where nbc's anne thompson has been covering it all. good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. the path of destruction was determined by the levees and even though they're under extreme threat tonight, they are holding. but here there is no protection, many homes and many lives have been devastated. it was a day of unnerving discovery.

    >> that's my sister's house and we're katty corner to her.

    >> reporter: but the water made it impossible for katy callaghan to get to what she's lost. whole neighborhoods swallowed up by the susquehanna river . carl made the muddy trek to his parents' house, their backyard swimming tool sunk by more than two feet of water.

    >> the swimming pool is under there.

    >> reporter: inside the tv room and basement, all damaged by the flooding. in some spots a boat was the only way to get around. noting fire crews rescued those who didn't evacuate. but even in this mess, some still refuse to leave.

    >> we're staying, we're good. we got food and water.

    >> good luck.

    >> we just want to get them out.

    >> reporter: west pitston is not protected by levees.

    >> they wanted a view of the river, now they got their view of the river and it's all in their homes.

    >> reporter: the susquehanna crested -- officials say this flood damaged some 350 homes, a quarter of the houses in this borough. tonight the evacuation order here in lucern county continues as the water hasn't receded enough to let people back into their homes.

Photos: Flooding in northeast US

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  1. Floodwaters from the Susquehanna River partially submerge homes in West Pittston, Pa., on Friday, Sept. 9. Days of rainfall from what had been Tropical Storm Lee inundated a wide portion of Pennsylvania and other northeastern states Thursday, pouring into basements and low-lying homes and forcing tens of thousands of people to seek higher ground. At least 11 deaths have been blamed on Lee and its remnants. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A 'Swings Coffee' van lays along the banks of Cameron Run, in Alexandria, Va., on Sept. 9, after it was caught in floodwaters on Thursday night. (Cliff Owen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A National Guardsman carries a dog named Charlie as residents are rescued from the Susquehanna River in West Pittston, Pa., on Sept. 9. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. The ramps from Route 42 going on and off Route 11 in Bloomsburg, Pa., disappear into the floodwaters from Fishing Creek which cover Route 11 on Sept. 8. (Jimmy May / Bloomsburg Press Enterprise via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The roadway is buckled at the off ramp of the Route 322 East Hersheypark interchange in Derry Township, Pa., on Sept. 8. (Dan Gleiter / The Patriot-News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Rich McDave, Chad Bowman, Deb Bowman, and Rebecca Cummins ride out in a motorboat after helping Rob Jackson remove valuables from his deceased parents' home in Goldsboro, Pa., on Sept. 8. (Chris Dunn / York Daily Record via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Airplanes sit on the west of the runway at the Bloomsburg Airport, in Bloomsburg, Pa., as the Susquehanna River inundates the airport on Sept. 8. (Jimmy May / Bloomsburg Press Enterprise via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Elaine Delzeit, center, ties sandbags next to rising floodwaters in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sept. 8. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. From the top of the image, the second and the sixth home in the 900 block of West Main Street in Bloomsburg, Pa., have been moved off their foundations by floodwaters from Fishing Creek, on Sept. 8. (Jimmy May / Bloomsburg Press Enterprise via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The flooded Little Conewago Creek blocked the Susquehanna Trail in York County, Pa., on Sept. 7. (Bil Bowden / York Dispatch) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Floodwaters from Chickies Creek traps vehicles, blocking Route 72 on Thursday Sept. 8, 2011 in Manheim, Pa. The Pennsylvania National Guard was called in to help with evacuations and to transport emergency workers. (Dan Marschka / Lancaster Newspapers via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Members of Cambria County Water Rescue, help Donna Macloed out of the boat after rescuing her, from her home in Swatara Township, Pa. on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. Late the night before, the flood waters of the Swatara Creek started pouring into Macloed's house but it was too dark for her to evacuate. The Cambria County Water Rescue unit was dispatched to the area in anticipation of rising water and expects to remain busy thru the weekend. (Daniel Shanken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. View of the Susquehanna River from the fifth floor of the Guard Insurance Building Thursday, September 8, 2011, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The Susquehanna is projected to crest in the northeastern part of the state between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday at 41 feet - the same height as the levee system protecting riverfront communities including Wilkes-Barre and Kingston, officials said. More than 100,000 residents were ordered to flee the rising Susquehanna River on Thursday. (Mark Moran / The Citizens' Voice via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Jorge Garcia bails rainwater from his row boat in preparation for the expected cresting of the Passaic River following an overnight storm, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 in Wayne, N.J. Residents along the Passaic River are still cleaning up after Irene with the remnants of Lee expected to drop anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of rain. Forecasters say New Jersey's streams and rivers remain at or in flood stage. (Julio Cortez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Playground equipment is submerged in Port Deposit, Md., Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, as rainfall from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee causes flooding along the East Coast.The National Weather Service predicted rain would continue to fall heavily across the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states through Thursday with anywhere from 4 to 7 more inches falling and up to 10 inches in isolated pockets. Flood watches and warnings were in effect from Maryland to New England. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Wilkes-Barre evacuees Kim R. and her daughter Arianna J., 5, rest on their cot at the G.A.R. High School shelter location in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. Nearly 100,000 people from New York to Maryland were ordered to flee the rising Susquehanna River on Thursday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped more rain across the Northeast, closing major highways and socking areas still recovering from Hurricane Irene. (Kristen Mullen / The Citizens' Voice via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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