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Storm Lee brings flash floods to Louisiana
by Staff Writers
New Orleans, Louisiana (AFP) Sept 4, 2011

Obama tours flooded, storm-hit New Jersey
Paterson , New Jersey (AFP) Sept 4, 2011 - President Barack Obama on Sunday toured the flood-battered state of New Jersey to survey damage from Hurricane Irene, which last week left entire towns underwater and claimed dozens of lives along the US east coast.

The president made stops in two waterlogged cities, Wayne and Paterson, where damage from Irene, which struck the state as a tropical storm, was particularly severe.

"Obviously visiting Wayne, visiting Paterson, many of the surrounding communities gives you a sense of the devastation that has taken place not only here in New Jersey, but in upstate New York and Vermont and a whole range of states that were affected by Hurricane Irene," Obama said after taking an aerial tour of the damage wrought by Irene, which flooded town centers, blocked roads and forced thousands of people from their homes.

"The main message that I have for all of the residents not only of New Jersey but all those communities that have been affected by flooding, by the destruction that occurred as a consequence of Hurricane Irene, is that the entire country is behind you," the president said.

"And we are going to make sure that we provide all of the resources that are necessary in order to help these communities rebuild."

Obama last week declared a "major" disaster area in the northeastern state, making federal funds available to those affected by the hurricane and floods, including providing temporary housing and home repairs and loans to cover property losses.

He arrived a little after noon (1600 GMT) at Newark Liberty International Airport, and was met by New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie, and the state's two Democratic US senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez.

He was accompanied by Craig Fugate, the head of the US disaster response office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

En route to New Jersey, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that Obama "looks forward to hearing from the federal response team and local officials."

Paterson in particular experienced devastating floods after more than eight inches (20 centimeters) of rain fell during the storm, causing the Passaic River to rise to record levels.

Irene made landfall last Saturday in North Carolina, with winds upwards of 85 miles (140 kilometers) an hour, careening up the US east coast in a weaker, but still potent state before petering out in Canada.

Carney told reporters accompanying the president that Obama was also keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Lee which made landfall in Louisiana early Sunday.

Tropical Storm Lee on Sunday brought torrential rains and flash flooding to the US Gulf Coast after making landfall near New Orleans, the latest bad weather to batter the country.

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, packing sustained winds of 45 miles per hour.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the storm was slowly moving northward and was expected to turn east-northeast later Sunday, a week after Hurricane Irene battered America's east coast causing devastation.

President Barack Obama, speaking in Paterson, New Jersey where he viewed damage, met with distraught residents and was briefed on response and recovery efforts, pledged that "all those communities that have been affected" by storms would be supported.

"There's been some talk about whether there's going to be a slowdown in getting funding out here, emergency relief," Obama said.

"I want to make it very clear that we are going to meet our federal obligations -- because we're one country, and when one part of the country gets affected, whether it's a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, or a hurricane that affects the Eastern Seaboard, then we come together as one country and we make sure that everybody gets the help that they need."

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency in several counties, urging residents to "not underestimate the impact" of Lee.

Tornado warnings were also issued from Louisiana to Florida as the storm's powerful winds knocked down power lines and blocked roads with fallen trees.

Oil companies on Saturday evacuated workers from offshore rigs ahead of the arrival of Lee. The slow-moving but massive storm is expected to continue to draw moisture from the Gulf as it gradually drifts north to drench the Appalachian mountains and Tennessee River valley.

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.

"It only takes a few inches of water to wash even a truck away," Pieper said.

Lee was battering the Gulf Coast six years after the region was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The levee system around New Orleans failed after Katrina, putting much of the city underwater. More than 1,500 people died.

Last Monday, on Katrina's sixth anniversary, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that an upcoming Army Corps of Engineers report gives the levee system a "near-failing grade," despite a $10 billion post-Katrina rebuilding job.

The intense rain that Lee was dumping on the city is expected to provide the most severe test of the levee and canal systems at Lake Pontchartrain and elsewhere since Hurricane Gustav came close to overwhelming the levees in 2008.

Last week New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the water pumps that are key to the city's flood mitigation are "100 percent operational."

By Saturday afternoon 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.

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Katia dips to tropical storm, expected to strengthen
Washington (AFP) Sept 1, 2011 - Katia was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday but was expected to regain strength as it moved westward in the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm's winds decreased to a sustained 70 miles per hour (110 kilometers per hour), dropping from category one hurricane strength, the center said.

But the dip in strength was likely to be temporary. The center said it was "expected to restrengthen" over the next two days, meaning the storm still poses a potential threat to North America, still recovering from Hurricane Irene.

Katia was 930 miles (1495 kilometers) east of the northern Leeward Islands at 2100 GMT -- too far to affect any land mass -- and there was a chance it would cycle north and disintegrate without hitting the North American mainland.

The new storm approached as US President Barack Obama declared a "major" disaster area in New Jersey and announced plans to visit the flood-hit state on Sunday to view damage wrought by Hurricane Irene, the Atlantic season's first.

Thousands remain cut off by flooding in Vermont, New Jersey and upstate New York in the aftermath of Irene, which killed nearly 50 people.

Three days after the storm passed, some marooned families are still waiting for the national guard and firefighters to bring food and water to swamped towns.

Officials have reported at least 43 deaths across 11 states, including eight in New York, seven in New Jersey and six in North Carolina, where Irene made landfall Saturday with winds upwards of 85 miles an hour.

The hurricane was already responsible for at least five deaths in the Caribbean before it struck the United States, and is being blamed for a 49th fatality in Canada, where the storm finally petered out on Tuesday.

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Tropical storm Lee threatens Gulf of Mexico
Miami (AFP) Sept 2, 2011
A tropical storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico threatens to dump heavy rains and dangerous flash floods across a large swath of the southern United States, the National Weather Service warned Friday. Oil companies evacuated workers from offshore rigs ahead of the arrival of Lee while Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency, urging residents to "prepare for the worst a ... read more

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