Residents of the Binghamton, N.Y. area began returning home on Friday, after floodwaters that had inundated the area and forced 20,000 people to evacuate, began to recede.

Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan called the flooding some of the worst in more than 60 years, and cautioned residents that the rebuilding process would be a long one. Raw sewage continued to flow into the Susquehana River after authorities were forced to shut down the city's waste treatment plant, a situation similar to that facing some residents of flood-battered Pennsylvania.

We face a public health emergency because sewage treatment plants are underwater and no longer working, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said. Flood water is toxic and polluted. If you don't have to be in it, keep out.

Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee had swollen the Susquehana to record levels and spurred evacuations in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed emergency declarations for Pennsylvania neighboring New York that made federal resources available for both enduring the flood and recovering from its aftermath.

Robert Smith, 35, told MSNBC that he returned to his home to find detritus strewn everywhere and some roads still blocked off by water. But he said he felt uplifted by a communal feeling that had emerged.

Everybody was helping each other out, just total strangers, Smith said. You've never seen it before in your life.

The flood damage could create traffic snarls for the foreseeable future, with many roads damaged beyond use.

There are still dozens of local, county and state roads that have been severely damaged during this historic flood, Chenango County  Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Decker said in a prepared statement. Many will be closed for days or weeks to come.