Alabama, Mississippi get rain and warnings ahead of Lee

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 03, 2011 1:18 PM
Alabama, Mississippi get rain and warnings ahead of Lee

By Kelli Dugan

MOBILE, Ala (Reuters) - Rain and gloomy skies with occasional wind gusts of about 30 miles per hour were the only signs in southern Alabama by midday on Saturday of Tropical Storm Lee looming in the Gulf of Mexico.

"There's nothing to it. We get summer showers worse than this," said Mobile resident Michael Hanks, as he topped off his gas tank before heading to a friend's home to watch football.

"The only catastrophe here will be if we lose power before the game's over."

Despite Hanks' lack of concern, the National Hurricane Center extended the tropical storm warning, already in effect from Mississippi to Texas, further east to include the entire Alabama coast.

The center said the slow-moving storm, expected to reach the Louisiana coast later on Saturday, could dump up to 20 inches of rain across southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through Sunday night and cause extensive flooding.

The Florida Panhandle also could get four to eight inches of rain by late Sunday, forecasters said.

Promoters of the Labor Day Kid Rock concert in Orange Beach, Alabama announced late Friday that the show would be rescheduled.

A fishing tournament and Labor Day parade, both slated for Monday in Mobile, also were canceled.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency on Friday for seven counties ahead of the storm, and local governments also were taking special precautions.

Flooding concerns for low-lying roads and property near the coast and bays in Mississippi prompted emergency management officials in Hancock County to call for a voluntary evacuation.

Only one person stayed overnight at the shelter opened by the county, but a spokeswoman said more people were calling on Saturday and expecting to seek refuge there.

The city of Biloxi declared a state of emergency, and Mayor A.J. Holloway urged residents to secure lawn furniture and remove litter that might clog storm drains.

"There is no reason to panic. But, you should not underestimate the impact of this storm," Barbour said in a recorded message to more than 120,000 residents in southern Mississippi.

(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jerry Norton)