Floodwaters finally started to recede from areas of the northeast devastated by Hurricane Irene but many communities were still underwater on Wednesday and relief workers battled cut-off roads and raging rivers to deliver emergency supplies.

 

The storm battered the East Coast with up to 15 inches of rain on Saturday and Sunday, setting river level records in 10 states, the Geological Survey said.

 

Wide swathes of New Jersey, upstate New York and Vermont experienced the worst flooding in decades, and while many disaster areas began to see waters recede other rivers had not yet crested, the USGS said.

 

Some 1.7 million homes and businesses were still without power after as many as 6.7 million had lost electricity.

 

With damage in the billions of dollars — Standard & Poor’s estimated the national total at $20 billion, though others have put the number at half that — homeowners were also battling insurance companies that exclude flood damage coverage.

Adding to the anxiety, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had to put long-term projects on hold and focus on rushing immediate relief to battered states because it had only $800 million left in its disaster relief fund.