President Obama Inspects Irene Damage; Lee Downgraded to Tropical Depression

Posted September 5th, 2011 at 1:46 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama is urging politicians in Washington not to play politics with federal aid for victims of last week's Hurricane Irene.

Mr. Obama on Sunday got a first-hand look at the storm's devastation as he traveled to New Jersey, touring the state's third largest city, Paterson, which was inundated by Irene's torrential rains.

Irene cut a swath of destruction along the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina to Vermont. The storm was blamed for at least 40 deaths and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Mr. Obama's visit came just ahead of what weather forecasters say could be another week with more rain for the northeast.

Meanwhile, late Sunday Tropical Storm Lee was downgraded to a tropical depression. The storm continues pouring torrential rains on the Gulf coast states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Lee could dump up to 50 centimeters of rain over several states as it moves north into the Tennessee valley.

The U.S. city of New Orleans, Louisiana city is under flash flood warnings and evacuation orders have been issued for low-lying areas.

Authorities say high winds from Lee fanned wildfires across portions of east and central Texas. The Reuters news agency reports more than 1,000 homes in the Austin, Texas area are threatened by the encroaching fires. Drought stricken Texas has not received any rain from Lee.

Another storm, Katia, is out in the open Atlantic Ocean and heading northwest.

Katia, a category two hurricane on a five point scale, is expected Monday to become a major hurricane. Katia is causing high surf along the southeastern U.S. coast, but is not a threat to any land areas.

The month of September is considered the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which has already seen 12 named storms.