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Remnants of Lee soak East Coast

Brandon Franklin picks up a tar ball washed in by Tropical Storm Lee at Gulf Shores, Ala., on Tuesday. Samples were to be tested to determine if the tar is from last year’s BP oil spill.

Associated Press

Brandon Franklin picks up a tar ball washed in by Tropical Storm Lee at Gulf Shores, Ala., on Tuesday. Samples were to be tested to determine if the tar is from last year’s BP oil spill.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Disorganized yet deadly, the leftovers from Tropical Storm Lee spread farther inland Tuesday, soaking much of the East Coast. Areas still drying out from Irene were hit with more rain while farmers in the Southeast welcomed the wet weather.

Lee spawned tornadoes that damaged hundreds of homes. Roads were flooded, trees were uprooted and power was knocked out to hundreds of thousands of people. Winds from the storm had fanned wildfires in Louisiana and Texas, though calmer air Tuesday was expected to help firefighters. Lee even kicked up tar balls on the Gulf Coast.

At least four people died in the storm.

Lee formed just off the Louisiana coast late last week and gained strength as it lingered in the gulf for a couple of days. By Tuesday, it had collided with a cold front leaving much of the East Coast wet, with unseasonably cool temperatures.

Lee's damage paled in comparison with Irene, though. At least 46 deaths were blamed on that storm, millions lost power and the damage was estimated in the billions of dollars.

In Gulf Shores, Ala., black and brown chunks of tar ranging in size from marbles to baseballs washed up on the beach. Brandon Franklin, the city's coastal claims manager, said samples would be sent to Auburn University for chemical testing to determine if the tar is from last year's BP oil spill.

Oil from the spill had soiled Gulf Coast beaches during the summer tourist season a year ago, though officials said the tar balls found so far didn't compare with the thick oil found on beaches then.

BP has sent survey teams to conduct post-storm assessments along coastal beaches to determine what may have developed on the beaches and barrier islands as a result of Lee. The oil giant is prepared to mobilize response crews to affected areas if necessary, spokesman Tom Mueller said.

Meanwhile, in the open Atlantic, Hurricane Katia, downgraded to a Category 2 storm, threatened to bring large swells to the East Coast but was not expected to make landfall in the United States.

Remnants of Lee soak East Coast 09/07/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 12:04am]

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