Tropical Storm Lee hits Louisiana coast

NEW ORLEANS - Tropical Storm Lee barreledinto southern Louisiana's coast on Sunday, as New Orleansprepared for one of the biggest tests of its flood defensessince Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.

The National Hurricane Center said Lee's center was about 80miles (129 km) west of Morgan City, Louisiana, with maximumsustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph) at around 0500 EDT (0900GMT).

In New Orleans, about 70 miles west of Morgan City, thestorm recalled Hurricane Katrina, which flooded 80 percent ofthe city, killed 1,500 people and caused more than $80 billionin damage to the popular tourist destination.

Half the city lies below sea level and is protected by asystem of levees and flood gates.

"Don't go to sleep on this storm," Mayor Mitch Landrieu toldresidents. He said stormy conditions could continue for the next36 hours.

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