The center of Tropical Storm Lee touched down on Sunday on the coast of Louisiana bringing with it up to a foot of rain, spinoff tornadoes and fears of inland flash flooding to the Deep South and far beyond it. The sopping soggy storm system spent hours this week floating in the northernmost Gulf of Mexico. Its slow crawl to the north gave it increasing time to pelt the coastline. At least 6 to 10 inches of rain had fallen by Sunday.
The rain was expected to head northward into the Tennessee Valley later in the week as forecasters warned that 10 to 15 inches of rain could fall along the central Gulf Coast.
The great New England state of Vermont is still cleaning up and digging out dozens of their communities damaged by heavy monsoons from last week’s anticlimactic Hurricane Irene, last week, which quickly filled up all of the mountain rivers.
At midday on Sunday, there were scattered tornado warnings of spinoff twisters from Lee.
Lynn Burse is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, and he says that the chance twister hit Lamar County, Mississippi, on Sunday morning. No injuries or major damage was ever actually reported – good thing too. Burse said that drier air pivoting behind the system could possibly increase the risk for tornados.
Then, one possible tornado hit southern Mobile County in Alabama, snapping oak limbs, knocking out power and damaging at least one home. Thank the Heavens there were no injuries however, the blast awoke Frank Ledbetter and tore up the sign to his art gallery. He said:
“It just got louder and louder and louder. I woke my wife up and said, `It’s a tornado.’ We just dove into the closet in the bedroom…It was crazy.”
Joe Zirlott was working the overnight shift at a Citgo Speedy Mart in the Bayley’s Corner community when trash cans began to fly, a sign blew away, the front door popped open and then the lights went out. He said, “Everything got real hairy for about 10 minutes, then it eased up a little…”
Even before Lee hit the area there were scattered instances of water entering low-lying businesses and homes in Louisiana’s bayou country which is a region of eroding marshes long vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes. Areas were evacuated because of the storm in bayou towns like Jean Lafitte. Hundreds were left with no power. Then, on Saturday, lifelong Jean
Lafitte resident Brad Zinet was waiting out the storm in his mobile home now mounted on pilings. He said,”We got nowhere to go. We’re just getting everything put up out of the way and hope for the best…This is a way of life around here…You just do the best you can and ride it out.”