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Severe storms rake southeast

Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee spawn tornadoes, more flooding

BALTIMORE (UPI) | September 6, 2011

Heavy rainfall produced by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee have merged with a cold front that is now threatening more severe weather and flooding for the eastern seaboard previously inundated by Hurricane Irene last week.

Power outages from Alabama to Maryland were reported Monday morning as a result of the storm system.

In Birmingham, AL, schools were closed Tuesday when the auditorium of Pinson Valley High School collapsed Monday night after up to 5 feet of rain collected in the building, The Birmingham News reported.

Schools spokeswoman Nez Calhoun said so one was injured in the collapse.

More than 200,000 power outages were reported in Alabama Monday night, including 162,000 in the Birmingham area alone, Alabama Power said.

In New Orleans, Lee prompted some officials to renew complaints against the Army Corps of Engineers concerning levee repair since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, The (New Orleans) Times Picayune reported.

The breach of a low "back" levee during Lee resulted in the flooding of the Myrtle Grove area after water pushed in from Barataria Bay.

Late Monday, parish workers were trying to decide whether to dig two cuts in the levee to allow floodwaters to drain.

At the time, Lee's winds had shifted and were pushing water back out of Barataria Bay into the Gulf of Mexico.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser angrily denounced the corps' failure to rebuild a non-federal levee as Congress directed.

"It was supposed to protect us from a 50-year storm," Nungesser said. He said a rebuilt levee would have been higher than needed to fight Lee's surge.

In other tropical news, forecasters are watching a new tropical wave that is beginning to cross the Atlantic and believe Hurricane Katia will not be a direct threat to land. The hurricane is, however, generating dangerous surf conditions for the U.S. East Coast and Bermuda but no coastal watches or warnings were posted, officials said Tuesday.

The Category 3 hurricane, about 400 miles south of Bermuda, was moving steadily in a northwestward direction at 10 mph, carrying maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 a.m. EDT advisory.

Katia was expected to continue on its path through Wednesday, then shift toward the north-northwest by Thursday, forecasters said. Some fluctuations in strength were likely, then the storm was expected to weaken.

Large swells generated by Katia will affect most of the East Coast of the United States, Bermuda, the Greater Antilles and the east-facing beaches of the Bahamas during the next few days, the center said. The swells likely will cause life-threatening surf conditions, the center said.

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