WEATHER

Tropical Storm Lee unloads rain on Gulf Coast

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Flooding in Livingston Parish forced an estimated 200 families from their homes, said Mark Benton, parish director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness.

High surf rushes under houses along the west end of Dauphin Island, Ala., Sunday. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

A possible tornado struck southern Mobile County in Alabama, snapping oak limbs, knocking out power and damaging at least one home. No injuries were reported, but the blast awoke Frank Ledbetter and ripped up the sign for his art gallery.

"It just got louder and louder and louder. I woke my wife up and said, `It's a tornado.' We just dove into the closet in the bedroom," he said.

In Gulf Shores, Ala., three teenagers were swept out by a rip current, and two people who tried to help them also became distressed, said Maj. Anthony Lowery of the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office. Four eventually made it out, but the Coast Guard was still searching for a 16-year-old boy Sunday night.

Witness Charlie Camp saw two teenage boys getting swept away, and their parents trying in vain to help them. Lifeguards eventually came to their aid. "The waves were just terrible," he said.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said flooding was reported in Mississippi's six southernmost counties, with some homes flooded with an inch or two of water in coastal Jackson County. Shelters were opened in Jackson and Hancock counties, but few people were using them.

Rupert Lacy, the emergency management director in coastal Harrison County, said at least five homes were damaged there by a suspected tornado. There were no immediate reports of injuries from the wind.

In Lafitte, La., workers and residents were busy sandbagging around homes to stop water pushed up from Barataria Bay by tides and wind.

The small town, which runs along the edge of the Intracoastal Canal and the bay, was under a mandatory evacuation order, but many people ignored it.

"A few more left this morning," Jefferson Parish President John Young said. "The sheriff had to get a few people out using his high-water vehicles."

Marc McAllister, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said Lee could drop 4 to 8 inches of rain as it pushes across Alabama on Tuesday and Wednesday and into Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. The storm is expected to produce less rain the farther north it gets.

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