APALACHICOLA — Tropical Storm Fay was downgraded to a tropical depression Saturday night, but cities along the Gulf Coast were still bracing for heavy rain.
Officials in Alabama opened shelters in the coastal counties of Mobile and Baldwin. Trucks capable of rescuing people from floodwaters were also in place, said Yasamie Richardson, spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.
In the New Orleans area, which is approaching the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, forecasts called for 1 to 3 inches of rain on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
City officials in Slidell, La., where forecasters predicted several inches of rain late today through Monday, said emergency vehicles had been fueled and workers were on call.
Fay killed at least 11 people in Florida, emergency officials said, and the storm's overall death toll was at least 25 by Saturday. Thirteen died in Haiti and the Dominican Republic from flooding. In southwest Georgia, a 10-year-old boy was drowned Saturday by rushing waters in a drainage ditch following 10 to 12 inches of rain.
Fay, named Aug. 15, hit the Keys on Monday and crossed open water before hitting a second time near Naples. It limped across the state, popped back out into the Atlantic and struck again near Flagler Beach, about 20 miles north of Daytona Beach. It was the first storm in almost 50 years to make three landfalls in the state as a tropical storm.
Fay's center made its fourth landfall around 1 a.m. Saturday about 15 miles from Apalachicola in the Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center said. The landfall was uneventful, but heavy rain and high winds pelted inland areas.
Rains and strong wind gusts blitzed Tallahassee for more than 24 hours, knocking down trees and power lines and cutting electricity to more than 12,000 customers, city officials said.
"This is unprecedented in terms of the slow nature of this storm, the large circulation and the fact that it's impacted probably about 90 percent of the state with heavy rains and severe weather," state meteorologist Ben Nelson said.
Fay caused widespread flooding along Florida's east coast, especially in Jacksonville near the storm's third landfall.
The Office of Insurance Regulation reported Saturday that roughly 6,700 homeowners filed claims, although only some were because of flooding. That number was expected to change, and Gov. Charlie Crist has asked the federal government to declare the worst-hit areas major disaster areas.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, R. David Paulison, visited the National Hurricane Center in Miami on Saturday to discuss concerns of flooding on the Gulf Coast if the storm continues to creep on its path, a FEMA spokeswoman said.