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Depression Lee weakens over US South
by Staff Writers
New Orleans, Louisiana (AFP) Sept 5, 2011

The remnants of Lee meandered up the Mississippi River valley Monday, bringing rain and tornado warnings as it weakened to a tropical depression, forecasters said.

The slow-moving storm is now expected to continue to draw moisture from the Gulf as it gradually drifts north to drench the Appalachian mountains and Tennessee River valley.

The National Weather Service meanwhile on Monday issued tornado warnings across the deep South.

With some areas forecast to receive up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain over the Labor Day holiday weekend, officials warned residents of coastal states as well as landlocked Kentucky and Tennessee to prepare themselves for extensive flooding.

"A lot of it has been flash flooding where the water's rising quite quickly," said Corey Pieper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "Roadways is where it gets really dangerous because people think they can make it across," he told AFP.

Too often, the floodwaters are hiding the fact that the road has been washed out, he said. And even if it's still there, the flood can be far more powerful than most people expect.

Louisiana's governor declared a state of emergency, saying flooding was the state's "primary concern," after Lee came ashore 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Lafayette, with sustained winds of 45 miles per hour.

In its last advisory on Sunday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the depression was slowly moving east and was expected to turn northeast early Monday, a week after Hurricane Irene battered America's east coast causing devastation.

Weather website Stormpulse showed the storm tracking north up the Mississippi River into Arkansas and Mississippi as of late Sunday.

Torrential rains in New Orleans provided the biggest test of the levee and canal systems at Lake Pontchartrain and elsewhere since Hurricane Gustav came close to overwhelming the levees in 2008.

Throughout the storm's passing this weekend, all 24 pumps were operating at full capacity and one station was forced to briefly switch to backup generators due to a temporary power failure.

Meanwhile, dry winds believed to have been kicked up by Lee have sparked a huge wildfire in Central Texas, which has already damaged or destroyed at least 300 homes, officials said.

The National Hurricane Center has also announced that Katia, a storm churning in the Atlantic Ocean, had strengthened again to hurricane status, this time at Category Two, with maximum sustained winds of almost 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour.

No coastal watches or warnings have been issued, but the hurricane center noted that the storm's fate remained clouded by "a lot of uncertainty."

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