9/3/11 (AEIN) Tropical Storm Lee began to pelt the Gulf Coast region with rain and wind late Friday and early Saturday as it threatened to cause major flooding. The slow-moving storm could also trigger small numbers of tornadoes across the far south and deliver a significant storm surge.
As of early Saturday, the storm was centered approximately seventy-five miles southwest of Morgan City and ninety-five miles south of Lafayette, according to the National Hurricane Center. It boasted top sustained wind speeds of fifty miles per hour, with stronger gusts at times.
By eight o'clock Friday night, New Orleans had already received about 6/10" of rain. On Saturday morning at eight o'clock, heavy rain was falling in Baton Rouge while light rain fell in Lafayette. VOA reported that petroleum companies had closed offshore oil platforms and evacuated personnel.
Forecasters predict that Tropical Storm Lee will gain strength before its center reaches land later in the day on Saturday. Southern parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana may receive ten to fifteen inches of rain. Even the Florida panhandle could pick up four to eight inches.
In addition to wind and severe flooding, the National Hurricane Center warns that Lee could spawn isolated tornadoes in areas ranging from southern Louisiana to the western Florida panhandle. Weather forecasters expect storm surges of two to five feet along the Gulf Coast.