MIAMI, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Tropical Storm Lee weakened slightly Saturday night as it dumped heavy rains on Louisiana and the northern gulf coast, forecasters in Miami said.
With Lee, centered about 85 miles west-southwest of Morgan City, La., and about 65 miles south of Lafayette, La., was producing maximum sustained winds of 50 mph with higher gusts as it drifted toward the west at 2 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its 10 p.m. CDT advisory. Lee has tropical force gales extending outward up to 260 miles, mostly over water.
The center's forecasters said a tropical storm warning was in effect all the way from Destin, Fla., to Sabine Pass, Texas. The warning included New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas.
Lee was expected to turn slowly toward the north overnight and early Sunday, hitting the Louisiana coast overnight and then sliding across the southern portion of the state through the day.
The forecasters said the storm was expected to weaken gradually by Sunday afternoon, but not before producing 10-15 inches of rain from the central gulf coast northward into the Tennessee Valley. Rainfall could reach 20 inches in some areas.
The heavy rain is expected to cause extensive flooding and flash flooding.
The coastal storm surge is to reach 3-5 feet along the Louisiana cost and 1-3 feet in Mississippi and Alabama.
Lee also could spawn tornadoes in southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the far western Florida Panhandle.
"Heavy rain is causing scattered street flooding in New Orleans and Metairie, the result of heavy rains accompanying thunderstorms moving through the area with several of these rain bands," The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported. "The St. Bernard Sheriff's Office reported that roads outside hurricane levees in eastern St. Bernard are becoming impassable."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Friday and New Orleans prepared for possible flooding.
"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. "That's not a good prescription for the city of New Orleans should it come this way."