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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gulf coast braces for more rain, one dead (Reuters)

MOBILE, Ala (Reuters) – Gulf Coast residents from Texas to Florida struggled with a third day of severe weather on Monday with one man dead and a teenager missing in rough waters as remnants of Tropical Storm Lee lashed the region.

The tail end of the storm is expected to produce rain accumulations of up to 15 inches across the central Gulf coast, the National Weather Service said on Monday. Flash flood watches were in effect in along the coast until 7 p.m.

Tornadoes spawned by the system have also touched down in Gulf coast states and are likely to threaten the Southeast through Tuesday, forecasters said.

A Corinth, Mississippi man drowned late Sunday. Tishomingo County coroner Mack Wilemon said Howard Anderson, Jr., 57, was swept into floodwaters and drowned around 11 p.m. while awaiting rescue from a vehicle.

Heavy rains will continue to expand northeastward into the Tennessee Valley and southern Appalachian mountains through Tuesday, with rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches likely and isolated amounts of 12 inches possible, according to the National Weather Service.

"These may cause life threatening flash floods and mudslides," the weather service said.

Thunderstorms plowed through Mobile, Baldwin and Washington counties in Alabama on Monday morning, downing trees and power lines from Dauphin Island to Citronelle.

Tornadoes have touched down in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, according to


A 16-year-old boy was swept out into the surf on Sunday afternoon just east of Fort Morgan, Alabama. The Baldwin County Sheriff's Office identified him as Conrad Charleston Hathcoat of Hoover, Alabama.

Maj. Anthony Lowery with the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office said Hathcoat and two other teens were standing near the coastline when a large wave hit, carrying two of them into the surf. One was able to make it back to shore, and rescuers retrieved Hathcoat's mother who tried unsuccessfully to reach her son in the 10-foot waves. The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the boy on Monday afternoon.

Rupert Lacy, emergency management director in Harrison County, said at least five homes in the coastal Mississippi county were damaged on Sunday by suspected tornado activity in the Saucier community. No injuries were reported.

Lacy said at least one Harrison County resident was taken to a local hospital after he was injured when lightning traveled through a phone line.

"Highway 90 is one of my big concerns. In some places you can't be sure if you're on the beach or the highway," he said.

Lacy said the Mississippi Department of Transportation would be bringing in reinforcements from the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, area to assist in damage assessments on Monday.

Response crews are attuned to the threat of tornadoes after devastating twisters ravaged northern Alabama on April 27, killing more than 230 people and leveling portions of Tuscaloosa, Concord and Pleasant Grove.

Rainfall totals on Monday have ranged from 4 to 5 inches in the northern portion of coastal counties in Alabama and Mississippi to as much as 12 inches near the coast, Williams said. The Florida Panhandle received between 5 and 6 inches.

A coastal flood watch was in effect for the affected areas until 7 p.m. with tides expected to be as much as 3 feet above normal with waves of 7 to 10 feet.

Meanwhile, Alabama Power Co. crews were working to restore power to 16,000 customers statewide as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee continued to work their way slowly to the northeast.

(Reporting by Kelli Dugan; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Peter Bohan)

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