Tropical Storm Lee: New Orleans Residents Brace for Rain, Flooding

PHOTO: Heavy rain clouds from approaching Tropical Storm Lee form over the skyline of New Orleans and the Crescent City Connection bridges at dusk, Friday, Sept. 2, 2011.
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Tropical Storm Lee pounded the Gulf Coast today as it approaches New Orleans, expected to bring as much as 20 inches of pounding rain that could put levees that failed six years ago to the test.

The rain has been relentless, coming down nonstop since Friday morning along with winds gusting as high as 40 miles an hour.

There are tropical storm warnings in effect from Pascagoula, Miss., along the coast to Sabine Pass, Texas.

There have been a number of tornado watches and warnings in the area but so far, no twisters have been reported.

In south Mississippi, Kazimier Buryn is one of many racing the clock to get everything they need before the storm touches down.

"You're better off to have stuff that you don't need instead of wishing that you had gone and done something about it when it's too late," Buryn said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has already declared a state of emergency in 10 parishes.

"The bottom line for folks is to know regardless of what they call it, if you live in south Louisiana, especially southeast Louisiana, you are going to see a lot of rain between now and Tuesday," Jindal said.

The storm is expected to make landfall into the state's central coast late today and make its way toward New Orleans.

National Hurricane Center hurricane specialist Eric Blake said it doesn't matter where the storm lands because the effects will be felt to the same extent and in the same places regardless.

"Tropical storm force winds and heavy rains are spread out all the way from Louisiana to Alabama and almost into northwest Florida," Blake said.

Louisiana residents are not taking any chances.

They are sandbagging, cleaning out storm drains and getting ready for torrential rain.

"Well, we first started, we first started sweating a little bit, you know, nervousness. 'Cause we know. We know the area we live we're prone to flooding," resident Mark St. Ament said.

New Orleans could get as much as 20 inches of rain, putting the city at risk for major flooding.

"In other communities when the storm surge comes in, it comes in and it goes out. Here, it comes in, it has to be pumped out because we're in a bowl," Jefferson Parish president John Young said.

It was six years ago almost to the day, that Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.

So pump operators are working overtime until this storm system passes.

People who live here are doing their best to stay dry.

"We have a lot of improvements in St. Charles Parish with the drainage, but still -- you always have that worry in the back of your mind," St. Ament said.

ABC News' Colleen Curry, ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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