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Storm still is flooding threat

SAUCIER — While Lee's winds have lost some of their punch, forecasters warn that its slow-moving rain clouds pose a worse flooding threat to inland areas with hills or mountains in the coming days.

Flash flood watches and warnings were in effect across a swath of the Southeast early Monday, stretching from the lower Mississippi Valley, eastward to the Florida Panhandle and the southern Appalachians, according to the Hydrometeorological Predication Center.

The massive storm system dumped more than a foot of rain in New Orleans and spawned tornadoes elsewhere before it weakened to a tropical depression Sunday night. Its remnants were expected to continue to march to the northeast.

Areas of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi near the coast reported scattered wind damage and flooding, while New Orleans levees and pumping system were doing their jobs.

National Hurricane Center specialist Robbie Berg said Lee's flash flood threat could be more severe as the rain moves from the flatter Gulf region into the rugged Appalachians.

Closer to the Gulf, the water is "just going to sit there a couple of days," he said. "Up in the Appalachians you get more threat of flash floods."

The threat of tornadoes spawned by Lee's remnants was diminishing early Monday, said Fred Zeigler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. But he said coastal flooding would remain a concern.

No deaths had been directly attributed to Lee, though a body boarder in Galveston, Texas, drowned after being pulled out to sea in heavy surf churned up by Lee. The Coast Guard was also searching Sunday for a teenage boy swept away by rough surf off Gulf Shores, Ala. A man in Mississippi also suffered non-life-threatening injuries when authorities said he was struck by lightning that traveled through a phone line.

The vast, soggy system spent hours during the weekend hovering in the northernmost Gulf of Mexico before its center finally crossed into Louisiana west of New Orleans, pelting a wide swath of coastline.

On Sunday night, the National Hurricane Center said Lee's center was about 55 miles (90 kilometers) west-northwest of McComb, Mississippi and moving east-northeast at 7 mph (11 kph).

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