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Tropical storm aims at Gulf Coast

Slow-moving tropical system predicted to soak southern states as Hurricane Katia keeps moving west

MIAMI (UPI) | September 2, 2011

U.S. states along the Gulf of Mexico braced Friday as Tropical Storm Lee threatened to soak the region during the holiday weekend.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency and New Orleans prepared for possible flooding, with 8 to 10 inches of rain forecast in the next few days.

The storm with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, was about 185 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 220 miles southeast of Port Arthur, Texas, heading north at 2 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its 5 p.m. EDT advisory. Tropical storm force winds extended out 200 miles.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Pascagoula, Miss., west to Sabine Pass, Texas, including New Orleans, Lake Poncartrain and Lake Maurepas, the center said.

The storm's center should approach southern Louisiana during the weekend, the hurricane center said. The storm is expected to strengthen during the next two days and could become a tropical storm later Friday, forecasters said.

Sustained winds of 60 mph were reported about 65 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi at an altitude of a few hundred feet above the ocean surface, the NHC said. Major oil producers evacuated workers, CNN reported.

The storm could produce rainfall accumulations of 10-15 inches over southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southern Alabama through Sunday, the hurricane center said. Isolated amounts could reach 20 inches.

"What we do know is there's high wind, there is a lot of rain and it's going slow," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Thursday. "That's not a good prescription for the city of New Orleans should it come this way."

Another windstorm, Hurricane Katia, wasn't expected to strengthen much Friday as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean.

The storm is far from land in the Atlantic Ocean.

The storm was 630 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, and moving west-northwest at 12 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported in its 5 p.m. EDT bulletin.

Katia, a category 1 hurricane, was expected to strengthen in the next two days.

The storm's hurricane-force winds extended outward 35 miles, with tropical storm-force winds extending out 175 miles.

On its forecast track, Katia will move out over the open Atlantic, forecasters said.

No coastal watches or warnings were posted, but a land hazard was issued for the Lesser Antilles, where swells generated by Katia could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions late Friday, the center said.

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