Tropical Storm Lee moved slowly northward along the Louisiana Gulf coast Saturday, pounding south Louisiana with heavy rain and winds, according to the National Weather Service.
Gavin Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Slidell, said Saturday evening the storm was expected to move only another 20 miles through the night and into Sunday morning.
“There’s very little movement at all,” he said.
The storm’s center of pressure should make landfall by Sunday evening, Phillips said.
Phillips said rain would not be as widespread Saturday night as it was Friday night.
Phillips said most areas would see 8 to 12 inches of rainfall by the end of the weekend, most of which has already fallen.
Parts of south Louisiana hit a “dry slot” of the storm Saturday evening, when rain subsided for a time, Phillips said.
However, that dry slot allowed for a band of fast-moving thunderstorms Saturday night that could occur intermittently, Phillips said.
“Some areas may get more than others,” Phillips said.
East Baton Rouge Parish may expect about 3 inches of rain to fall during Saturday night and into Sunday in addition to rain that already has fallen, Phillips said.
A tropical storm warning continued through Saturday night for southeast Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service. A flash flood watch was also in effect.
A tornado watch issued Saturday was extended through 7 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
Louisiana parishes included in the tornado watch were: Acadia, Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John The Baptist, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Vermilion, Washington, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana.
Tornado warnings were issued overnight in Louisiana and south Mississippi, but there were no confirmed twister touchdowns, The Associated Press reported.
No injuries were reported and there were only scattered reports of water entering low-lying homes and businesses. So far, damage appeared confined to downed power lines and trees, according to the AP report.
Phillips also could not confirm any tornado touchdowns.
Heavy rains could cause localized flooding in low-lying areas of East Baton Rouge Parish that have seen flooding during past events, said Jim Ferguson, chief engineer with the city-parish.
Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 230 miles from the center and a sustained 47-mph wind was reported about 50 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the National Weather Service.
Gov. Bobby Jindal released an update Saturday afternoon on the state’s efforts to respond to Tropical Storm Lee.
Jindal said National Guard liaisons were placed in Terrebonne and Plaquemines parishes to assist in any emergency needs that may arise while additional Guard liaisons are on standby to help with flooding in other parishes.
“We have more than 25 Wildlife and Fisheries vessels, 24 LDWF vehicles, an ATV and a fuel truck available as needed for response efforts. LDWF has 225 agents ready to assist parishes with flood fighting efforts, and the LDWF mobile command unit along with three fuel trailers are also on standby,” Jindal said.
“We continue to encourage Louisianians to stay alert and monitor local weather conditions in their area. We have severe weather warnings and tornado warnings in effect for parts of the state and residents everywhere need to use extreme caution, especially if driving in the wind and rain.
“Tropical Storm Lee is moving slowly, as expected, and we are already seeing flooded roads and other effects from rising water levels throughout south Louisiana,” he said.
As Tropical Storm Lee approached the Louisiana coastline Saturday, East Baton Rouge Parish was experiencing high winds, flooding, and heavy rains, said Mayor-President Melvin L. “Kip” Holden in a news release. Holden urged residents and visitors to stay off of the roadways as much as possible.
“We understand that it is a holiday weekend, but current conditions are not conducive for driving,” Holden said. “Forecasters are predicting that this weather pattern will continue throughout the day and may deteriorate. Please only use the roads if you have to and be extremely cautious if you must drive anywhere.”
Thousands of Baton Rouge area residents lost power during the day, but those numbers shrunk significantly by Saturday night.
As of 8:15 p.m. Saturday, 324 Entergy customers in the Baton Rouge region were without power, said Sheila Pounders, Entergy’s regional customer service manager.
That region includes East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension, Iberville and Pointe Coupee parishes, Pounders said.
That number reached more than 2,000 earlier in the day, Pounders said.
Pounders said Entergy expected to have most of its outages fixed by Sunday morning.
However, Pounders said crews would have to suspend repairs if winds exceed 35 miles per hour.
Crews would work through the night to fix the outages, Pounders said.
“We will work until we get them back in,” she said.
Pounders cautioned that the company expects the weather to cause problems through Sunday.
“Winds will be about the same as they are now,” she said. “We’ll be fighting outages today and tomorrow because of that.”
Tree limbs caused most of the scattered outages in the Baton Rouge area, Pounders said.
Pounders warned that people should treat any downed wire like it is “hot” or live.
She urged people to call the power company rather than touch a wire
“Use caution when cleaning debris and stay safe around power lines,” she said.
About 2,400 Demco members lost power at one point Saturday, according to its website.
As of 8:15 p.m. Saturday, 609 residents in Livingston were without power, according to the Demco website.
Ascension and West Feliciana had only 75 and 59 customers, respectively, without electricity at the same time, according to the website.
Demco spokesman David Latona said the company expects to repair the outages by Saturday night or Sunday morning, “but we don’t know what may happen with additional wind and rain.”
The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and National Weather Service also encouraged residents to avoid trying to navigate flooded roads, according to a news release.
Other Tropical Storm Lee-related developments included:
SOUTH ACADIAN CLOSURE: South Acadian Thruway between I-10 and Perkins Road has been closed off because of flooding, according to a Department of Transportation and Development news release.
SANDBAGS IN EBR: Sandbags are available at the following locations throughout the parish: Baton Rouge Fire Department Station No. 6, 3820 Gus Young Ave.; Baton Rouge Fire Department Station No. 15, 3150 Brightside Lane; Alsen/St. Irma Lee Fire Station, 674 Old Rafe Mayer Road; St. George Station No. 65, 1506 Seaboard Drive; and District 6 Fire Station No. 51, 7878 Prescott Road and Fire Station No. 40, 22790 Reames Road.
David Guillory, assistant Public Works director of maintenance, said staff will monitor conditions and could determine additional sandbags are needed in other areas.
PUBLIC WORKS ON CALL: City-parish Public Works staff will be on call, including Labor Day, Guillory said, to address emergency situations.
He encouraged people to report problems by dialing 311, or (225) 389-2070 after hours.
MOHSEP ON DUTY: The Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness will continue to coordinate with local and state officials throughout the duration of the storm.
For more information on the weather, contact MOHSEP at (225) 389-2100 or visit http://www.redstickready.com.
ASCENSION SANDBAGS: Sandbags for Ascension parish are available at the intersection of La. 431, Lake Martin Road and L. Keller Road, Parish President Tommy Martinez said in a news release.
Sandbags are also available at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, 9039 St. Landry Road, Gonzales, Barns 5 and 6, and at the old pavilion behind the Lemann Center on Thibaut Drive in Donaldsonville, Martinez said.
LA. 1 CLOSURE: In Lafourche parish, La. 1 was closed to traffic Saturday south of the Golden Meadow floodgate because of high water, according to a news release from Parish President Charlotte Randolph.
ASSUMPTION RAINFALL: Assumption Parish could see as many as 6 inches of rain through Sunday, according to a news release from the parish’s Office of Emergency Preparedness.
Advocate staff writers Katie Kennedy and Robert Stewart contributed to this story.