>> it's been an eventful 24 hours on the east coast of the united states. let's get right to what is left of irene and where it is. surging up to canada, taking the rain with it but not the wind and certainly not the trouble like the flooding that is yet to crest. like the fact that millions of americans are going into this late summer sunday night with no power, and it may be that way for a while in some areas. irene is now technically a tropical storm and on its way out it's slamming new england. there's what looks like tornado damage in some places. some suburbs. and flooding like those pictures we sometimes see from overseas. this is vermont. more on that later. the pictures of the day might be these. the life guard tower getting moved off its moorings by seawater on long island. and the road undermined and cut in half on the outer banks of north carolina. the bad news? 18 storm-related deaths so far. 4 million people, give or take, without power tonight. and 12,000 canceled flights so far. the good news? something made this storm let up just a little bit and just when we really needed it to, meaning new york city was spared the worst of the storm surge after all those precautionary evacuations. but we still have, make no mistake, a lot of standing water in a lot of places and a lot of beaches that will take ages to come back. that includes along the jersey shore. we have a team of correspondents covering the flood zone. we want to begin tonight with nbc's michelle franzen in bay head, new jersey, on the jersey shore. michelle, good evening.

>> reporter:  good evening, brian. the water is slowly receding from this street in bay head. just one example of the damage caused near the shore. but it is new jersey's inland communities that may have been hit hardest by hurricane irene. with the worst yet to come. water spilled over the floodgates on the rariton river in new jersey, swallowing portions of this low lying community.

>> we're a little worried now.

>> reporter:  marie hollow is worried. the town's new flood control measures implemented following hurricane floyd are now being tested to the limit by hurricane irene.

>> we're afraid because now the wall is here and the water is going to come closer to us.

>> reporter:  floodwaters are now the biggest threat to new jersey's inland areas.

>> this storm is transitioning into a flooding event. we're going to experience major flooding. some rivers haven't crested yet, and it's still raining.

>> reporter:  the first hurricane to make landfall in the state in more than a century crawled along the shore overnight. heavy rain mixed with storm surge and wind.

>> it was pretty intense in the middle of the night. you could hear it howling.

>> reporter:  rick spent the morning cleaning up minor flooding in his basement. down in bay head, the rising waters of the banaget bay flooded streets near the shore. most residents were ordered to leave their homes in the days prior.

>> we have power. these people have no power.

>> reporter:  nancy walton decided to ride out the storm with her husband. both were awakened by the crash of a tree falling outside their bedroom.

>> we knew about it 11:30, 12:00 we made a mistake by staying. but we couldn't go anywhere. we were stuck. so we had sent our family out of harm's way, but we were stupid.

>> reporter:  more than 1 million people had been ordered to evacuate the jersey shore. that included residents and vacationers in spring lake where the damage today was evident. look at the boardwalk here in spring lake. it's a two-mile boardwalk. i am told about 1.5 of those miles of boardwalk have been destroyed by the waters that irene sent rushing up on to these shores.

>> reporter:  in asbury park, storm surge reached the famous boardwalk but didn't cause any major damage. the massive storm left more than 600,000 without power. due to heavy winds and downed trees. damage the governor says could have been worse.

>> the fact that we were successful in evacuating over a million people from the most affected areas was a preemptive measure that i am confident saved lives.

>> reporter:  it could have been worse. but make no mistake, it was pretty bad. and the governor christie says by the time this is all over, it could cost into the billions. brian?

>> a lot of standing water that's going to remain for a long time, michelle, you're right. first time we're seeing some of these pictures of these landmarks like the asbury park bo boardwalk overtaken briefly