Hundreds of state and government officials have fanned out over eastern North Carolina to assess the damage left by Hurricane Irene, while thousands of utility and emergency workers have scrambled to restore electrical power and help rebuild damaged roads, homes and businesses.

According to state officials, about 444,000 households remain without power and at least seven people have been killed because of the storm.

A spokesman for Progress Energy, Scott Sutton, told local media that he expects several days of power outages for some of the worst-hit areas.

No one is immune, he said. The coast is definitely the worst, but Goldsboro [150 miles from the coast] is badly hit, and Fayetteville [200 miles from the coast] is badly hit. It's what happens when a well-timed gust finds an unfortunate tree.

Moreover, thousands of people remain stranded across the Outer Banks as highway access to the mainland has been shut down by damaged roads and bridges. North Carolina Highway 12 – the primary link between the Outer Banks and the remainder of the state -- is closed north of the town of Rodanthe, trapping thousands on the barrier island, especially in Hatteras and Ocracoke. This essentially will kill the summer tourist season just a few days before Labor Day.

A business owner in Buxton, on the Outer Banks, told local media: We've been through this a dozen times before. We were flooded out by Irene and lost our power and lost all our perishable goods. But this is the price you pay for living in paradise.

However, it was the Inner Banks that suffered some of the state’s heaviest flooding, particularly along the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. State emergency workers rescued hundreds of people -- including two pregnant women and two babies -- who were trapped by rising waters in the region.

In Pamlico County, about 30 percent of residences were flooded, according to county official estimates, while power and water services were largely disrupted.

At the height of the storm, about 81 shelters across the state were housing 7500 evacuees.

Overall, the destruction is not as severe as I was worried it might be, said North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue on Sunday in Kill Devil Hills, in the northern portion of the Outer Banks.

But there's still lots and lots of destruction, and people's lives are turned upside down.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Craig Fugate, warned that it will take several days before his organization can accurately calculate the financial damage that Irene had wrought to the state.