Tropical Storm Lee Causes Deaths, Tornadoes, Floods; Loses Punch

At least five deaths apparently related to the former Tropical Storm Lee were reported, and tornadoes spawned by it were sighted from the Louisiana Gulf Coast to the Florida panhandle as of Monday morning, hours after Lee was downgraded to a tropical depression. The threat of more flooding remained.

Reuters Monday quoted police investigators as saying that a car wreck in Mobile, Ala., that killed one man and left several others injured early Sunday could be due to wet conditions associated with Tropical Storm Lee’s landfall.

Later on Sunday afternoon, an unidentified juvenile drowned in choppy surf east of Fort Morgan, Ala. According to Baldwin County Sheriff’s investigators, the deceased was one of the two juveniles who were swept away in rough waters churned up by Lee. The youth’s mother made rescue attempts but was caught in the surf herself, Reuters said. The mother and second juvenile were rescued, and the search for the first youth was suspended Sunday evening.

CNN reported that a mother and her 18-month-old child were killed when a fire engulfed their east Texas mobile home near the town of Gladewater Sunday due to a wildfire stoked by Lee.

On Saturday, a Texas man drowned when he lost his boogie board in the choppy water off a Galveston beach, according to Reuters. His body was recovered about 150 yards from the beach a few hours later.

Over a dozen tornado sightings were reported from the Louisiana Gulf Coast to the Florida panhandle, and tornado warnings were in effect Sunday for portions of Baldwin and Mobile counties in southwest Alabama, and Greene, Jasper, Perry and Wayne counties in southern Mississippi, Reuters said. While there was no official confirmation of tornadoes touching down in the area, at least three twisters and funnel clouds were being tracked near Mobile, Ala., and central Mississippi near Hattiesburg.

The Associated Press said Lee dumped more than a foot of rain in New Orleans. Areas of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi near the coast reported scattered wind damage and flooding, while New Orleans levees and pumping system were doing their jobs, it added.

Lee was expected to move over southern Mississippi Monday, and as much as 20 inches of rain was expected in spots through Monday night as Lee chugged north toward the Tennessee Valley, according to the National Hurricane Center. “These rains are expected to cause extensive flooding.”

Lee’s flash flood threat could be more severe as the rain moves from the flatter Gulf region into the rugged Appalachians, AP quoted National Hurricane Center specialist Robbie Berg as saying. Closer to the Gulf, the water is “just going to sit there a couple of days. Up in the Appalachians you get more threat of flash floods.”

Over time, Lee is expected to dump considerable rain in the eastern part of the country, including New Jersey, New York and Vermont, where grounds are drenched and rivers are already full after Irene, CNN said.

“It will ... be a long, slow trip through the Southeast into the Appalachians,” CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said. “Heavy rain and inland flooding continue to be the greatest concern.”