Tropical Storm Lee's remnants spawn twisters
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
ATLANTA -- The slow-moving remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped a torrent of rain across the South on Monday and whipped up twisters in Georgia as the storm system pushed farther inland. One death was reported, and at least one person was injured.
In Mississippi, a man was swept away by floodwaters after trying to cross a swollen creek, the first death caused by flooding or winds from Lee. The system was sweeping through Alabama and pushing into Georgia, where the suspected tornadoes sent trees falling into homes and injured at least one person.
Lt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office northwest of Atlanta said he'd gotten scattered reports of homes damaged by falling trees, but couldn't say how many.
One person was taken to the hospital after being hit by falling debris, but his injuries were not life-threatening.
In areas of Louisiana and Mississippi that took the brunt of the storm over the weekend, at least 16,000 people remained without power as of Monday afternoon.
The man who died in Mississippi, 57-year-old John Howard Anderson Jr., had been in a car with two other people trying to cross a rain-swollen creek on Sunday night. Tishomingo County Coroner Mack Wilemon said Anderson was outside of the car and had been thrown a rope to be rescued, but he couldn't hold on.
Jonathan Weeks, a 48-year-old salesman from Plantersville who owns a vacation home nearby, said he helped pull two people to shore and tried to save Anderson.
Weeks said he and his wife saw a van crossing the creek, and he happened to have a rope in the toolbox of his truck.
"It all happened so fast. They were in there trying to get out and panicking. The power was out so everything was dark," Weeks recalled in a phone interview Monday.
"We threw them a rope and tied it to a tree," Weeks said. "We got two of them to the bank and were trying to help the driver. We had him on the rope and were trying to pull him in, but I don't think he was able to hold on."
Surf churned up by the storm has also proven treacherous. In Texas, a body boarder drowned after being pulled out to sea by heavy surf churned up by Lee, and the Coast Guard was searching for a boy swept away by rough surf off the Alabama coast.
Lee came ashore over the weekend in Louisiana, dumping up to a foot of rain in parts of New Orleans and other areas. Despite some street flooding, officials said New Orleans' 24-pump flood control system was doing its job. On Monday, heavy rain continued to fall in Mississippi and make its way across Alabama and into Tennessee and Georgia.
"Right now it's a big rainmaker, said Marc McAllister, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson.
Elsewhere, the heavy rain made for a dud of a Labor Day holiday as Gulf Coast beaches mostly cleared of tourists. On Monday morning, the main road on Alabama's Dauphin Island was flooded and covered with sand, jellyfish and foam washed in by Lee.
All the rain caused a creek to swell near an apartment complex in Jackson, prompting officials to move 45 families to a storm shelter. In Louisiana's Livingston Parish, about 200 families were evacuated because of flooding.
The rain had stopped out in the Gulf of Mexico, allowing oil and gas production platforms and rigs to look for damage and get operations kick started again on Monday. Federal regulators said evacuations had shut in about 61 percent of oil production and 46 percent of natural gas production in the Gulf.
The storm was forecast to move up the Tennessee River Valley on Tuesday, and forecasters have warned people to be on the lookout for tornadoes. Several already had been reported, including one that damaged five homes in Harrison County.