As the East Coast cleaned up from Hurricane Irene on Monday and residents of lucky areas began to say the storm had not been that bad, rescuers in harder-hit areas continued to pull bodies from floodwaters.

By Tuesday, the death toll from Irene had risen to at least 40, from initial reports on Monday of 25 casualties. Some newspapers put the updated toll at 41. The sharp increase came as a number of drowned bodies were recovered and several more people electrocuted by downed power lines.

Some people died because they were reckless, as with the 46-year-old man who tried to canoe down a flooded street in Connecticut or the 55-year-old man who tried to surf off the Florida coast. But other deaths were inexplicable and ghastly. For example, an 89-year-old Connecticut woman was killed when a tree branch fell on her house, pulling down power lines and setting the house on fire, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Some of the most heartbreaking stories were of people who died to save others. There was the man in Spring Valley, N.Y., who tried to rescue a drowning child and was fatally electrocuted. And in Stroudsburg, Pa., a father was killed by a falling tree after pushing his son out of the way.

The deaths were scattered across numerous states, including Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. There were at least 15 casualties in the Tri-state area, according to ABC News. Although much of the pre-hurricane attention focused on the threat to coastal areas, many of the deaths occurred inland. The majority were drownings or electrocutions, although some were also attributed to car crashes.

Meanwhile, even as local, state and federal officials try to clean up the damage, lives continue to be threatened by the widespread power outages that have persisted for days in some places.

Once the refrigerator gets warm, my insulin goes bad. I could go into diabetic shock, Connecticut resident Patricia Dillon told CBS News. It's kind of scary because we don't know how long it's going to be out for.

The toll will probably climb further as receding floodwaters allow more bodies to be recovered. And with each body added to the grim tally, another hole is punched in the wishful belief that the region was spared the worst of Irene.