Remnants of Lee pose flooding threat across east
By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Lee's remnants brought threats of flooding from the Tennessee Valley to New England on Tuesday, while those in the storm's wake continued to face power outages and blocked roads.
The National Weather Service issued flood and flash flood watches and warnings from the southern U.S. through the Appalachian Mountains and into the northeast.
Tornado watches were in effect in the Carolinas and Virginia.
Heavy rains will continue through Thursday. Between four to eight inches of rain are expected, though some areas could see up to 10 inches.
"These rains may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the weather service said.
According to AccuWeather.com, weather systems from the tropics could bring more heavy rain and flooding to the Atlantic seaboard through mid-September.
Chattanooga, Tennessee was experiencing some flash flooding and power outages, with nearly 10 inches of rain soaking the city since early Monday.
The 9.67 inches that fell in a 24-hour period beginning at 2:30 a.m. local time Monday broke the single-day rainfall record of 7.61 inches, set on March 29-30, 1886.
"Starting Sunday evening, we had a cold front start to move into our area, which was pulling up copious amounts of moisture from what was left of Lee," said meteorologist Kate Guillet, whose Morristown, Tennessee office keeps track of the weather in the eastern part of the state.
"It gave us some widespread, significant heavy rainfall across our area."
The rain caused flooded roadways, stalled cars and the backup of sewage pipes in areas including Knoxville, she said.
The good news was that creeks were beginning to level off and didn't look like they would leave their banks, said Amy Maxwell, spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency in Chattanooga.
"The only thing we're having concerns with is the ground is so saturated with the water that we have received that trees are coming down and falling on homes," she said, noting that 32,000 customers were without power at noon local time.
Officials in Alabama's coastal Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island said the weekend's rough waters kicked up new tar balls onto beaches.
Jeff Collier, mayor of Dauphin Island, said the barrier island's beaches were experiencing an increase in the amount of oil-related debris washing ashore.
But Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said the size and volume of the tar balls there did not seem any more substantial than for the past several months.
Crews there have collected between 40 and 60 pounds of tar balls each week since the cleanup from the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was announced complete.
"We haven't seen any signs yet of the worst-case scenario, and we're going to give (the surf) two to three days to settle down," Kennon said.
About 108,000 power outages remained in Alabama on Tuesday evening, with 101,000 of them in the Birmingham metro area, according to the Alabama Power utility company.
The outages resulted from a mix of Tropical Storm Lee and a cold front from the north, Pigott said.
Power outages and flooded streets meant an extended Labor Day holiday for many students in central Alabama, where some school systems were closed and others opened late.
Two 17-year-old kayakers -- who had gone missing as the storm's remnants caused Mobile Bay to swell -- were located by Alabama Marine Police late Monday and were being treated for exposure and hypothermia.
(Additional reporting by Tim Ghianni in Nashville, Kelli Dugan in Mobile and Peggy Gargis in Birmingham; Editing by Jerry Norton)