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Tropical Storm Lee threatens Gulf Coast with heavy rain

The outer bands of Lee, the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, began dumping rain over southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and Alabama on Friday. Heavy rains will pound some areas along the Gulf coast, with some forecast to receive up to 20 inches.

Tropical storm warning flags were flying from Mississippi to Texas and flash flood warnings extended along the Alabama coast into the Florida Panhandle. The storm’s slow forward movement means that its rain clouds should have more time to disgorge themselves on any cities in their path.

The storm was expected to make landfall on the central Louisiana coast late Saturday and turn east toward New Orleans, where it would provide the biggest test of rebuilt levees since Hurricane Gustav struck on Labor Day 2008.

Lee comes about a week after Hurricane Irene pounded the East Coast, killing more than 40 people and leaving millions without power.

It was unclear whether Hurricane Katia, another storm swirling in Atlantic, could endanger the United States.