Tropical Storm Lee hits Louisiana coast

September 4, 2011 13:16

NEW ORLEANS - Tropical Storm Lee barreled into southern Louisiana's coast on Sunday, as New Orleans prepared for one of the biggest tests of its flood defenses since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.

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

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

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

"Don't go to sleep on this storm," Mayor Mitch Landrieu told residents. He said stormy conditions could continue for the next 36 hours.

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