Sept. 2, 2011— -- A long, dry summer will come to a rainy close along the Gulf Coast this weekend as Tropical Storm Lee is expected to pour as much as 20 inches of rain over the New Orleans area.
Tropical Storm Lee, which was upgraded from a tropical depression Friday afternoon, is expected to make landfall along the southern coast of Louisiana around 1 p.m. on Saturday with winds of 60 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecasters said New Orleans could get up to 15 inches of rain through Sunday afternoon. The city, anxious about any possibility of a repeat of Hurricane Katrina, has already declared a state of emergency and is taking early precautions, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.
Craig Taffaro, president of coastal St. Bernard Parish, told the newspaper that some flood gates were being closed along bayous and residents were being warned to brace for heavy rain. Still, in a parish that was nearly wiped out six years ago by Katrina, Taffaro wasn't expecting a major event.
"We'd like the public to use this as a drill. Hopefully that's all it will be," he told the paper.
Tropical storm warnings are in effect from Pascagoula, Miss., across the coast to Sabine Pass, Texas.
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The draught-stricken area is still at risk for flooding despite dry conditions, according to Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.
"We're calling for extensive flooding, rainfall amounts of two to three inches per hour. That's a lot of rain," Feltgen said.
The slow-moving storm could linger over the coast well into next week.
"It's just hovering there," Feltgen said. "Until something comes to nudge it along, it just sits there, pumping up all that juice from the Gulf, with rain bands already spreading across southeastern Louisiana."
Officials in Louisiana, which is still dealing with the long-term effects of Hurricane Katrina, are equipping wastewater treatment plants with temporary generators, readying portable pumps to drain streets, and preparing floodgates and pumps to prevent flooding from Lake Pointchartrain, the Times Picayune reported.
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Katia has been upgraded once again to a hurricane, with 75 mph winds as of 11 a.m. on Friday. It had been temporarily downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday night into Friday morning.
Feltgen confirmed that Katia would not hit any land for at least five days, though its intensity was expected to increase during that time. The NHC predicts Katia could become a category 3 hurricane by Wednesday, he said.
"What impacts, if any, on the East Coast of the U.S. are still very unclear," he said.