By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
BOSTON (Reuters) - Vermont residents battled epic flooding on Monday after the remnants of Hurricane Irene set off the state's worst flooding in nearly 40 years, washing out roads and knocking out power.
At least one person was killed after being swept into a swollen river in the mountainous, land-locked New England state, which rarely sees tropical storms.
Homes and businesses were flooded after 7 inches of rain from Irene, which had been reduced to a tropical storm by the time it reached Vermont on Sunday. Floodwaters gushed through downtown Brattleboro, an artsy community of 12,000 along the Connecticut
At least one of the state's historic covered bridges was washed away as Irene's rains sent rivers spilling over their banks.
Governor Peter Shumlin called the flooding catastrophic and several people had to be rescued. Some 50,000 people are without power, officials said on Monday.
Shumlin ordered state offices closed on Monday and urged Vermont residents to stay indoors and off the roads as emergency crews approach the worst hit areas in Rutland and Addison counties in the south and middle of the state. Many businesses in Brattleboro and other cities and towns remained closed on Monday, local media reported.
Weather reporters said the flooding was the worst in Vermont since 1973 and perhaps since 1927.
Hurricane Irene chugged up the eastern seaboard Saturday and Sunday, starting in North Carolina, and appears to have inflicted the greatest damage farther inland with heavy rains in western Massachusetts and Vermont.
Overnight every single road in Vermont -- except interstate highways Routes 89 and 91 -- was closed at one point due to flooding, Robert Stirewalt, a spokesman for the Vermont Emergency Management Agency said on Monday.
"Things are bad throughout the state and we are just starting the recovery process in the light of day," he said. "It is too early to say what the damage will be as we assess it and we hope it won't be more extensive than last night indicated."
On Sunday and overnight nine Red Cross shelters and 27 community shelters opened their doors to aid the state's roughly 625,000 citizens, officials said.
Known for its many rivers and creeks, Vermont had swift water rescue teams ready to move and every single emergency worker in the small state was called up to help, officials said.
But even some of the helpers encountered terrifying conditions and had to turn back on some occasions, officials said. The state Emergency Management Office in Waterbury was forced out to evacuate its building overnight and move in with a the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a nearby building.
(Additional reporting by Toni Clarke and Lauren Keiper; Editing by Bill Trott)