Saturday, September 3, 2011

Storm Lee inching toward Louisiana could flood mountains

(from an AFP report)

MIAMI — Tropical Storm Lee strengthened on Saturday as it inched toward Louisiana, threatening to dump heavy rains and trigger dangerous flash floods along the Gulf of Mexico coast of the United States.

Oil companies evacuated workers from offshore rigs ahead of the arrival of Lee while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency, urging residents to "prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

The slow-moving storm could bring the same kind of flooding that residents in the northeast are still grappling with after Hurricane Irene tore up the east coast last weekend, officials warned.

Irene affected more than 40 million people, was blamed for nearly 50 deaths, triggered historic flooding and caused what one risk assessment firm estimated to be more than $10 billion in damage before blowing itself out over Canada.

The biggest danger from Tropical Storm Lee -- the 12th named storm of the Atlantic season, which is already dumping rain across coastal Louisiana -- could be in the Appalachians.

"If we get the five to 10 inches that come out into a tropical storm in that kind of terrain, the flash flooding is fast and it's violent," Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told reporters.

Lee was 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of Morgan City, Louisiana early Saturday, packing sustained winds of 50 miles (85 kilometers) an hour, up from 45 miles (75 kilometers) an hour just last night, according to the NHC...

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