Remnants of Lee soak South, threaten Northeast

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Disorganized yet deadly, the leftovers from Tropical Storm Lee spread farther inland Tuesday, soaking much of the East Coast. Areas still drying out from Irene were hit with more rain while farmers in the Southeast welcomed the wet weather.

Lee spawned tornadoes that damaged hundreds of homes. Roads were flooded roads, trees uprooted and power was knocked out to hundreds of thousands of people. Winds from the storm had fanned wildfires in Louisiana and Texas, though calmer air Tuesday was expected to help firefighters. Lee even kicked up tar balls on the Gulf Coast.

At least four people died in the storm.

Lee formed just off the Louisiana coast late last week and gained strength as it lingered in the Gulf for a couple of days. It dumped more than a foot of rain in New Orleans, testing the city’s pump system for the first time in years. The storm then trudged across Mississippi and Alabama. By Tuesday, it had collided with a cold front leaving much of the East Coast wet, with unseasonably cool temperatures.

At one point, flood watches and warnings were in effect from northeast Alabama through West Virginia to New England. Heavy rain bands scattered across the central Appalachians and Northeast. The National Weather Service said 4 to 8 inches of rain were possible, with isolated downpours up to 10 inches.

In southeast Louisiana, Red Eubanks used a floor squeegee to clean up his restaurant and bar. His parking lot had been dry — and the headquarters for Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputies and their rescue boat — but the nearby Amite River slowly rose and overflowed its banks.

Water crept into the dining hall and back of Red’s Restaurant and Bar. Eubanks’ son and several friends put the refrigerator, freezers and salad display boxes on cinder blocks to protect them.

“This makes the fifth time I’ve had water in this building in 31 1⁄2 years,” he said.

In New Jersey, where many residents were still cleaning up after Hurricane Irene, the remnants of Lee were expected to drop anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of rain. Officials were not expecting any new major flooding but they were keeping an eye on the saturated grounds and still-bulging rivers.

Lee’s damage paled in comparison with Irene, though. At least 46 deaths were blamed on that storm, millions lost power and the damage was estimated in the billions of dollars.

Still, Lee was an unprecedented storm in some places. In Chattanooga, a 24-hour record for rainfall was set with 9.69 inches, eclipsing the previous record of 7.61 inches in March of 1886. By Tuesday, more than 10 inches of rain had fallen in the state’s fourth-largest city, which had its driest August ever with barely a drop of rain.

In suburban Atlanta, a man died after trying to cross a swollen creek near a dam. Authorities in Alabama called off the search for a missing swimmer presumed dead in the rough Gulf waters and in Mississippi, another man drowned while trying to cross a swollen creek in a car. Two people in the car with him were saved when an alert motorist nearby tossed them a rope.

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