Tropical Storm Lee Weakens, Remains a Threat

Posted September 3rd, 2011 at 9:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The Gulf coast of the southern U.S. state of Louisiana is facing drenching rains as Tropical Storm Lee lingers offshore.

Lee's winds weakened Saturday as it wound its way northward toward the Louisiana coast, after stalling for several hours earlier. It was expected to make landfall late Saturday.

The National Hurricane Center says the slow-moving Lee could dump up to 50 centimeters of rain over southern parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through Sunday. Its maximum sustained winds have dropped to 75 kilometers-per-hour and they were expected to decrease further as the storm moves inland.

National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen tells VOA the storm's rains are expected to cause extensive flash flooding. He said Lee could also bring tornadoes to the region from southern Louisiana to the western panhandle of Florida.

Lee's approach prompted oil and gas producers to shut down platforms and evacuate workers from the Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical storm warnings have been issued from the Alabama-Florida border to Texas. New Orleans, Louisiana, which suffered devastating damage in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina, is one of the areas in the storm's path. The city's mayor has urged residents to prepare for the worst.

Lee is the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. It is hitting the United States just one week after deadly Hurricane Irene ravaged the nation's east coast.

Irene's winds and flooding devastated parts of the states of Vermont, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina. The storm caused billions of dollars in damage and is blamed for at least 45 deaths in the U.S. and five in the Caribbean.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed disaster declarations for New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, making federal funding available for recovery efforts. Mr. Obama is scheduled to visit New Jersey on Sunday to view wind and flood damage from Irene.

Meanwhile, in the Atlantic, Hurricane Katia weakened to a tropical storm Saturday. It is expected to regain hurricane strength as it moves farther out to sea.

September is normally the peak of the hurricane season. Experts predicted an active 2011 hurricane season with eight to 10 hurricanes possible, which would be slightly more than normal.