September 6, 2011 in Nation/World

Dwindling Lee spawns tornadoes in Georgia

Man swept away crossing creek in Mississippi
Holbrook Mohr Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A resident watches flash flooding in Hattiesburg Miss., on Monday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee push through the Pine Belt.
(Full-size photo)

Katia gains strength

MIAMI – Hurricane Katia has roared to a Category 4 storm as it moves across the Atlantic Ocean. On Monday night, Katia’s maximum sustained winds had increased to 135 mph. Hurricane specialist Todd Kimberlain said it’s looking less likely that Katia will hit land but that wind from the storm could still affect the U.S. East Coast as it moves north. Forecast maps show it veering to the northeast, away from the U.S. in the coming week.

Associated Press

ATLANTA – The slow-moving remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped rain across the South and whipped up twisters that damaged dozens of Georgia homes as the system pushed farther inland on Monday.

In Mississippi, a man was swept away by floodwaters after trying to cross a swollen creek, while authorities called off the search for a missing swimmer presumed dead off Alabama. Another man was missing after trying to cross a creek in suburban Atlanta. Suspected twisters ripped off siding and shingles and sent trees crashing through roofs in Cherokee County, about 30 miles north of Atlanta. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency said about 100 homes were damaged there.

Tornadoes that caused minor damage were also reported in Alabama. Numerous roads were flooded in the Birmingham, Ala., and Chattanooga, Tenn., areas. More than 7 inches of rain had fallen in Chattanooga.

Mickey Swims and his wife hid in the basement of their house in Woodstock, Ga., as an apparent tornado passed.

“I heard it and saw the trees go around and around,” Swims said. “I knew when I heard it that if it touched down, it was going to be bad.”

Swims owns the Dixie Speedway, where he estimated the storm caused $500,000 worth of damage. That includes about 2,000 feet of chain-link fence uprooted from its concrete base, walls blown out of a bathroom and concession stands and tractor-trailer trucks turned into mangled messes.

In areas of Louisiana and Mississippi that took the brunt of the storm over the weekend, thousands remained without power. Lee’s center came ashore Sunday 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.

Heavy rain continued to fall in Mississippi on Monday, and a swollen creek near an apartment complex in Jackson prompted officials to move 45 families into a storm shelter. In Louisiana’s Livingston Parish, about 200 families were evacuated because of flooding.

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 couldn’t hold on to a rope thrown by a would-be rescuer.

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.”

Elsewhere, 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.

In Gulf Shores to the west, surf churned up by the storm proved treacherous. The Coast Guard suspended its search for a swimmer who went missing Sunday. Local authorities were transitioning to efforts to find his body, said Maj. Anthony Lowery of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office.

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 started again Monday. Federal regulators said evacuations had shut down about 61 percent of oil production and 46 percent of natural gas production in the Gulf.

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