Tropical Storm Lee Swamps the Gulf Coast

By: From CNN
By: From CNN

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- While New Orleans has braved Tropical Storm Lee without any major problems, residents of other communities on the Gulf Coast soldiered through severe flooding Sunday from the plodding, drenching storm.

State and local officials -- plus the Facebook page for Louisiana's emergency management division and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu -- reported flooding in numerous Louisiana parishes including Iberia, Terrebone, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Jefferson.

Mississippi has also been hard hit. A news release Sunday from its emergency management agency points to several flooded roads and damaged homes in Hancock, Harrison, Jackson and Stone counties. And the website for Entergy, a major utility in the area, shows mostly pockets of power outages as far west as the Houston suburbs and as far north as Arkansas.

Centered over southern Louisiana, the storm continued to pump out rain -- as much as 20 inches expected in spots through Monday night, according to the National Hurricane Center -- as it chugged northward Sunday toward the Tennessee Valley. In an advisory, the center warned, "These rains are expected to cause extensive flooding."

As of Sunday afternoon, the storm had caused numerous headaches but not the devastation of last week's Hurricane Irene, which killed more than 40 people and left millions without power. Nor has it compared, thus far, with Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and other Gulf states.

Robert Green was one of those directly affected by Katrina, which killed his mother and granddaughter and caused much of his house to literally float away. On Sunday, the resident of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward tracked the storm and prepared for the worst.

"We're making sure that we keep up with what's going on with the storm, so that what happened in 2005 doesn't happen again," he said. "If you live in fear, you don't live as well ... And you realize that you just have to be prepared and listen and move if you need to move."

In a press conference in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon, Landrieu characterized Lee as a "very stubborn, persistent, slow-moving unpredictable event." He noted that the storm, by then, had dumped 10 to 13 inches of rain on the city and brought wind gusts of up to 50 mph that caused minor flooding and prompted 60 calls to authorities for downed trees.

Yet New Orleans is otherwise fully functional, with all 24 pump stations in the city "100% operational" and just more than 200 people without power, down significantly from Saturday, the mayor said.

The mayor, though, warned residents not to be complacent, especially with continued tornado threats and rain bands that could dump between 2 to 4 inches at a time and cause flash floods. "We're not out of the woods yet," Landrieu said.

Other Gulf coast communities, however, have experienced more severe flooding. That includes the city of Mandeville, across Lake Pontchartrain, which was buried Sunday beneath feet of water.

"Normally there is a street here," said Gerard Braud, who sent CNN iReport videos from flooded areas of the city Sunday. Mailboxes were barely sticking out over the water.

In Plaquemines Parish, water pored over the top of levees and flooded parts of Highway 23, prompting its closure, the parish said in a news release. Rapidly rising waters also trapped some cattle, which survived after being steered to higher ground.

Coastal residents knew the storm was coming, and many took precautions. "We are a sturdy people. All Gulf Coasters are willing and able to weather any storm," said Andrew Kaile of Metairie, Louisiana, just west of New Orleans, in an iReport Saturday.

As of 7:00 tonight, Lee was moving north over central Louisiana at about 6 mph. Its center was about 45 miles west-northwest of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and 45 miles southeast of Alexandria.

Maximum sustained winds were 45 mph, down 5 mph from observations a few hours earlier. Lee, though, isn't expected to lose much more strength over the next 24 to 36 hours as it moves across Louisiana and then through southern Mississippi by late Monday, the center said. From there, it is expected to dump considerable rain in the eastern part of the country -- including New Jersey, New York and Vermont, which are already saturated after Irene caused dangerous flooding.

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