NATION

Tropical Storm Lee heads inland

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Governors in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as the mayor of New Orleans, declared states of emergency. Officials in several coastal Louisiana and Mississippi communities called for voluntary evacuations.

(Photo courtesy NASA)

The Army Corps of Engineers was closing floodgates along the Harvey Canal, a commercial waterway in suburban New Orleans, but had not moved to shut a massive flood structure on the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet shipping channel.

The MRGO was a major conduit for Katrina's storm surge, which overwhelmed levees and flooded St. Bernard and the city's Lower 9th Ward.

City officials said they expect some street flooding but no levee problems.

Lee's storm surge, projected around 4 to 5 feet, is far short of the 20-feet-plus driven by Katrina. Billions of federal dollars have been spent on new levees and other flood protection.

The water-logged Lee was tantalizingly close to Texas but hopes dimmed for relief from the state's worst drought since the 1950s as the storm's forecast track shifted east. Forecasters said it could bring drenching rains to Mississippi and Alabama early next week.

On the Mississippi coast, tourism officials said there was no spike in cancellations for the holiday weekend at hotels and casinos.

On Grand Isle, Louisiana's only inhabited barrier island, people kept an eye on the storm that was already bringing rain there. It's not as frightening as having a Category 2 or 3 hurricane bearing down, said June Brignac, owner of the Wateredge Beach Resort.

"But we're still concerned with all the rain that's coming in, causing possible flooding of the highway going out. If we don't leave, we may be trapped here until it's completely past," she said.

The rain, however, had a silver lining. In New Orleans, it was helping to tamp down a stubborn marsh fire that for several days has sent pungent smoke wafting across the area.

Southern Louisiana needs rain - just not that much, that fast.
"Sometimes you get what you ask for," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. "Unfortunately it looks like we're going to get more than we needed."

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