- (Photo: Courtesy NASA)
Back-to-back storms hitting the United States are dumping record amounts of rain in areas along the South that have been going through a long dry season. Tropical Storm Lee eased Louisiana’s worst drought since 1902, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Rainfall through July was 11 inches lower than average, although August precipitation was higher than normal. Most rain missed Texas, however, where the driest year on record continues.
As Lee moves slowly across Louisiana Sunday, it continued to dump rain, with accumulations of as much as 15 inches. The storm will move over southern Mississippi on Monday. About 10.4 inches had fallen in Pascagoula, Miss., as the center of the storm approached, the National Weather Service said.
Forecasters say while Katia poses no threat to land at the present time, the storm will continue to strengthen in the coming days as it continues to track westward.
The National Hurricane Center upgraded Hurricane Katia Sunday to a Category 2 storm as the system gained strength over the Caribbean, packing winds of up to 105 mph as it moved west over warm seas.
The storm is located in the middle of the Atlantic, some 1,600 miles east of the island of Grenada, on the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea, and about 3,400 miles southeast of Bermuda.
It is unclear if rains from Tropical Storm Lee would end up in New England, but right now, concerns are mostly about Hurricane Katia, which is expected to make a jog to the northeast in the coming days and may head straight for New England.
As the East Coast is being warned to brace itself for another possible hurricane landfall, relentless tropical rains hammered the flood-prone city of New Orleans and south Mississippi through the weekend.
It has been a little more than one week since Hurricane Irene dumped heavy rain over Vermont and upstate New York.
Now hurricane experts say the threat of dangerous rip currents are expected to increase along the East Coast during the next few days. Waves of greater than 10 feet are possible across the East Coast by Thursday or Friday as Katia makes its closest approach to land.
Lee has turned into a “storm that will not quit” as it is moves slowly northward over south-central Louisiana Sunday evening and is expected to turn toward the northeast.
At the same time, Tropical Storm Lee rolled into southern Louisiana's coast as New Orleans' flood defenses appeared to pass one of their biggest tests since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.
Lee also ushered in a full-day of tornado watches and warnings for south Mississippi as the area was left soaking wet by the slow-moving storm.
Weather experts say Katia has undergone rapid intensification Sunday and the latest satellite imagery shows an eye developing.
The storm had been fighting dry air and wind shear through much of its lifecycle, which has prevented it from significantly strengthening.
The hurricane is now moving into an area where the winds aloft are weaker and the dry air isn't as prevalent. This will allow for strengthening into the upcoming week and it's certainly possible that Katia becomes a major hurricane by Monday or Tuesday, weather experts say.
Katia will continue on a west-northwest track through much of the upcoming week, tracking generally in between Bermuda and the Bahamas.
The National Hurricane Center says the new storm will then take more of a northerly turn by Thursday and Friday as it encounters a dip in the jet stream associated with the remnants of Lee.
“Depending on how this dip sets up later next week and next weekend, Katia could either take a westerly path closer to the East Coast or it could get swept out to sea and stay well off the coast,” said Brian Edwards, a meteorologist with Accuweather.
“Therefore, some uncertainty still exists in the longer range forecast and how much impact Katia will have on the U.S.”
Follow all storm threats and hurricanes at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.