As Katia regained hurricane status, the center of Tropical Storm Lee stretched across the central Gulf Coast early today, dumping torrential rains that threatened flooding in low-lying communities in a foreshadowing of what cities further inland could face in coming days. Lee's center crawled ashore in Louisiana before dawn after the vast, soggy storm system spent hours during the weekend hovering in the northernmost Gulf of Mexico—knocking out power to 32,000 before it even made landfall. The storm's slow crawl to the north gave more time for its drenching rain bands to pelt a wide swath of vulnerable coastline, raising the flood threat.
By today, at least 6 to 10 inches of rain had fallen in some spots along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, and the National Weather Service warned there was a threat of extensive flooding and flash floods. The drenching rain bands were expected to head northward into the Tennessee Valley later in the week as forecasters warned that 10 to 15 inches of rain were possible along the central Gulf Coast and up to 20 inches in isolated spots. "We're not out of the woods," warned New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "Don't go to sleep on this storm." (Read more Tropical Storm Lee stories.)