SAUCIER, Miss. -- Tropical Storm Lee dumped more than a foot of rain in New Orleans and spun off tornadoes elsewhere Sunday as its center came ashore in a slow crawl north that raised fears of inland flash flooding in the Deep South and beyond.
Areas of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi near the coast reported scattered wind damage and flooding, but evacuations appeared to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands and New Orleans' levees were doing their job just over six years after Hurricane Katrina swamped the city.
National Hurricane Center specialist Robbie Berg said Lee's flash-flood threat could be more severe as the rain moves from the flatter Gulf region into the rugged Appalachians. Closer to the Gulf, the water is "just going to sit there a couple of days," he said. "Up in the Appalachians you get more threat of flash floods -- so that's very similar to some of the stuff we saw in Vermont."
Vermont is still cleaning up and digging out dozens of communities that were damaged and isolated last week when heavy rain from Tropical Storm Irene flooded mountain rivers.
No deaths had been directly attributed to Tropical Storm Lee, though a bodyboarder in Galveston, Texas, drowned after being pulled out to sea in heavy surf churned up by Lee. A man in Mississippi suffered non-life-threatening injuries when authorities said he was struck by lightning that traveled through a phone line.
The vast, soggy system spent hours during the weekend hovering in the northernmost Gulf of Mexico before its center finally crossed into Louisiana west of New Orleans, pelting a wide swath of coastline.
At 5 p.m., the National Hurricane Center said Lee had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. Its center was about 110 miles west-northwest of New Orleans, moving north-northeast at 5 mph. Some of the damage on the Gulf Coast appeared to come from spinoff tornadoes that touched down in southern Mississippi and Alabama.
Dena Hickman said her home in Saucier, Miss., was damaged overnight by what she thinks was a tornado. It happened too fast for her to get her 12-year-old daughter, who uses a wheelchair, out of her bed and into a safer place.
Her family weathered the storm, but it damaged shingles on their roof, flipped a 34-foot camper on its side, ripped off the roof of a cinderblock building that houses a water pump and pulled the doors off of a metal shop building.