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Lee lashes Gulf Coast and flood threat expands inland

Henry Sollberger paddles his pirogue to his house in Slidell, La., east of New Orleans on Sunday. Tropical Storm Lee flooded the neighborhood and began a slow crawl to the north.

Associated Press

Henry Sollberger paddles his pirogue to his house in Slidell, La., east of New Orleans on Sunday. Tropical Storm Lee flooded the neighborhood and began a slow crawl to the north.

Tropical Storm Lee dumped more than a foot of rain in New Orleans and spun off tornadoes elsewhere Sunday as its center came ashore in a slow crawl north that raised fears of inland flash flooding in the South and beyond.

Areas of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi near the coast reported scattered wind damage and flooding, but evacuations appeared to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands, and New Orleans' levees were doing their job six years after Hurricane Katrina swamped the city.

National Hurricane Center specialist Robbie Berg said Lee's flash-flood threat could be more severe as the rain moves from the flatter gulf region into the rugged Appalachians.

Closer to the gulf, the water is "just going to sit there a couple of days," he said. "Up in the Appalachians you get more threat of flash floods."

No deaths had been directly attributed to Tropical Storm Lee, though a body boarder in Galveston, Texas, drowned after being pulled out to sea in heavy surf churned up by Lee. A man in Mississippi suffered injuries when he was struck by lightning that traveled through a phone line, authorities said.

On Sunday night, the National Hurricane Center said Lee had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. Its center was about 45 miles southeast of Alexandria, La., moving north at 6 mph.

Marc McAllister, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, Miss., said Lee is expected to weaken over the coming days, but it could drop 4 to 8 inches of rain as it pushes across Alabama on Tuesday and Wednesday and into Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. The storm is expected to produce less rain the farther north it gets.

On Alabama's main tourist beaches in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, officials feared Lee would dredge up mats of submerged tar from last year's BP oil spill that could be lurking in shallow water beyond the surfline.

Katia strengthens

Hurricane Katia strengthened to a Category 2 storm in the Atlantic about 365 miles northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said. It's too soon to know if it will threaten land. Forecasters warned that Bermuda could begin seeing strong surf this week.

Lee lashes Gulf Coast and flood threat expands inland 09/05/11 [Last modified: Monday, September 5, 2011 12:09am]

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