Tropical Storm Lee has begun moving again, lumbering north in the Gulf of Mexico toward southern Louisiana at 4 mph and was expected to make landfall Saturday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm will be centered just west of Baton Rouge at 7 a.m. Sunday, with heavy rainfall beginning Saturday night and early Sunday, said Christopher Bannan, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Slidell
“It doesn’t look like much, but during the night, these storms tend to re-fire a lot of their thunderstorms,” Bannan said. “As it moves over Baton Rouge, it’s going to produce quite a lot of rain.”
East Baton Rouge Parish can expect 5 to 10 inches of rain to fall during the night and into tomorrow, Bannan said.
Those 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 continued to approach the Louisiana coastline, 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.”
A tornado watch remains in effect for much of south Louisiana until 10 p.m. Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
Louisiana parishes included in the tornado watch are: Ascension; Assumption; East Baton Rouge; East Feliciana; Iberia; Iberville; Jefferson; Lafourche; Livingston; Orleans; Plaquemines; Pointe Coupee; St. Bernard; St. Charles; St. Helena; St. James; St. John the Baptist; St. Martin; St. Mary; St. Tammany; Tangipahoa; Terrebonne; Washington; West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana.
Tornado warnings were issued overnight in Louisiana and south Mississippi but there were no confirmed 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 report.
Tree limbs are causing most of the scattered outages in the Baton Rouge area, said Sheila Pounders, Entergy’s regional customer service manager.
About 2,000 Entergy customers in and around East Baton Rouge Parish were without power at 3 p.m., according to the company’s website.
About 2,400 Demco members lost power, according to its website.
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.”
Workers were on the job around the clock to restore power, she said, and crews from Arkansas are on hand to help out.
She pointed out that crews working in booms must come down when winds reach 35 mph.
“It’s for their own safety,” she said. “They wait until winds die down and then go right back up.”
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.
Other storm-related developments included:
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.
Advocate staff writers Katie Kennedy and Robert Stewart contributed to this story.
TS Lee Information:
At 4 p.m. CDT, the center of Tropical Storm Lee was near Latitude 29.4 North, Longitude 92.1 West, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Maximum sustained winds remain near 60 mph with higher gusts. Some fluctuation in strength is possible this afternoon and tonight with gradula weakening forecast to occur by Sunday afternoon.
Lee is drifting erratically toward the north near 4 mph. A slow and possibly erratic motion toward the north or north-northwest is expected during the next 24 hours followed by a turn toward the northeast.
The center of Lee is expected to cross the Louisiana coast later this afternoon or evening, then move slowly across sourth Louisiana on Sunday.
A Tornado Watch continues in effect until 10 p.m. Saturday