Tropical Storm Lee has strengthened as it moves towards the southern coast of Louisiana bringing with it heavy rains and strong, gusty winds.
Government officials in Mississippi and Louisiana have declared states of emergency in several counties.
“Do not underestimate the impact of this system of tropical weather. Make preparations now to protect your family and your property,” said Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour in statement.
Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Governor, warned that Lee threatens “extremely heavy, prolonged” rain and could cause flash flooding and high tides. He said in a news conference that ten Louisiana parishes had declared states of emergency and voluntary evacuations were recommended for parts of Lafourche Parish and Grand Isle.
“Get ready for the wind and get ready for the rain,” Jindal said. “It’s coming, and it’s going to be here for a while.”
Tropical Storm Lee has forced oil and gas operators to shut down almost half of the oil production and one-third of natural gas output in the Gulf, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
Companies such as BP Plc, Noble Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., have started evacuating workers from oil rigs and platforms, Bloomberg has reported.
As of 10 a.m. Saturday Lee was located about 45 miles southwest of Morgan City, Louisiana and around 65 miles south of Lafayette, Louisiana. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) stated.
Tropical Storm Lee is currently moving north at “slow and possibly erratic motion” said the NHC. The center of Lee is expected to cross Louisiana’s coast late morning or early afternoon on Saturday.
The NHC expects the storm move slowly across southern Louisiana tonight or Sunday.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Alabama and Florida border to Sabine Pass, Texas – including New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain, and Lake Maurepas.
The storm is expected to dump 10 to 15 inches of rain over southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama through Sunday night. According to the NHC some areas could get as much as 20 inches of rain.