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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

U.S. Gulf Coast braces for more rain, one dead (Reuters)

MOBILE, Ala (Reuters) – Gulf Coast residents from Texas to Florida braced for a third day of severe weather on Monday with one death reported as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee continued to lash the region.

Flood and flash flood watches and warnings were in effect from coastal Texas into the Gulf states, with 10 to 15 inches of rain expected, the National Weather Service said on Monday.

Tornado warnings also were in effect in some Alabama and Florida counties.

A Corinth, Mississippi man drowned late Sunday. Tishomingo County coroner Mack Wilemon said Howard Anderson, Jr., 57, was swept into floodwaters and drowned 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 inches to 8 inches expected and isolated amounts of 12 inches possible.

"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.

The National Weather Service in Mobile issued tornado warnings for Bullock, Covington, Escambia, Macon and Monroe counties in Alabama and Escambia and Okaloosa counties in northwest Florida.

Meanwhile, flash flood warnings remain in effect until early Monday evening for Covington, Forrest, Jones, Lamar, Lauderdale, Newton, Scott and Smith counties in southern Mississippi.

Keith Williams with the National Weather Service in Mobile said one tornado had been confirmed on Sunday in the Destin, Florida, area, but the extent of damage was not yet known.


Baldwin County authorities have not released the name of a 16-year-old boy Birmingham, Alabama, boy swept out into the surf on Sunday afternoon just east of Fort Morgan, Alabama.

Maj. Anthony Lowery with the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office said three 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 the mother of the second who tried unsuccessfully to reach her son in the 10-foot waves. The boy remained missing on Monday.

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.

"We're not really sure about (Monday) because this thing's really moving slow. But there is definitely the possibility of continued rains," Williams said, noting at least 1 to 3 inches of additional rain could be expected.

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

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

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