TS Lee makes water rise in New Orleans again

Last Updated 11:50 p.m. ET

Tropical Storm Lee is making this holiday weekend a dangerous wash-out for residents along the Gulf Coast. The slow-moving storm pounded Louisiana and Mississippi Saturday, causing flooding, forcing evacuations and knocking out power to thousands. It's maximum sustained winds dropped to 50 mph as night fell.

The sluggish storm stalled just offshore for several hours before resuming its slow march northward late in the afternoon. The remnants of lee are expected to be felt for days throughout the East.

The National Weather Service in Slidell said parts of New Orleans received between 6 and 9 inches of rain between Thursday morning and Saturday afternoon, and that some coastal Mississippi areas reported more than 6 inches. Nearly 10 inches had fallen in Pascagoula, Miss.

The storm was denting offshore energy production. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said 237 oil and gas production platforms and 23 drilling rigs have been evacuated by Lee. The agency estimates that about 60 percent of the current oil production in the Gulf and almost 55 percent of the natural gas production has been shut in.

CBS News correspondent Bigad Shaban reports that in the town of Lafitte, La., the bayou is rising, but what may help prevent water from seeping in may just be water itself. There are tubes filled with it to serve as a sort of floodwall for the storm that's far from over.

Homes were turned into islands, and main roadways into waterways in the small coastal town of Lafitte. With a mandatory evacuation in effect, only high water rescue trucks are being allowed into the heart of the community.

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For Dorothy Selbe, it was her chance to escape when the waters began seeping into her trailer.

"We couldn't get out, and trees were falling and everything, it was horrible," Selbe says.

Lafitte has already seen roughly 5 inches of rain this weekend, but it's the storm's surge of water being pushed into the area's bayou that's now flooding the community.

Jefferson Parish President John Young showed CBS News a closed highway, where it's difficult to tell where it ends and the bayou begins.

"The biggest concern is tidal surge, you can see the wind coming at us," Young says.

In metropolitan New Orleans, it's very much the rain that's cause for concern, flooding low lying areas on and off since late Friday.

"The message today is that we are not out of the woods -- notwithstanding the fact that the sun was shining about a half hour ago, it is not now," New Orleans Mayor Mitch

Massive pumps are working to pull flood waters from the city.

"It takes water out of streets, prevents localized flooding," says Chris Accardo, Chief of Operations Division of the New Orleans Corp of Engineers.

It's one of three main pumping stations in the city built by the Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina, all can take excess rain water from the city's canals and dump it into nearby Lake Pontchartrain.

Steel gates at the site then shut to prevent any water from rushing back into New Orleans.

Low-lying Lafitte falls outside that protection, Dorothy Selbe's trailer included.

"I hope to go back home again and stay," Selbe says.

Late Saturday, she was forced to, as the storm kept causing the water to rise, and evacuations to spread.

Alabama

In Alabama, rough seas forced the Alabama State Port Authority to close the Port of Mobile. Pockets of heavy rain pounded the beaches Saturday, and strong winds whipped up the surf and bowed palm trees. But just a couple miles inland, wind and rain dropped significantly.

Beaches that would normally be packed with Labor Day tourists were nearly empty. Melinda Fondren, who moved to Gulf Shores from Birmingham about three months ago, visited the beach to experience her first tropical storm.

"I'm excited but a little afraid of the storm surge," she said, adding that her middle name is Lee. "I've been telling my family that I hit Gulf Shores twice."

At the Hangout, a beachside bar and restaurant, a healthy crowd gathered to watch the University of Alabama and Auburn University football season openers. Manager Matt Dagen said there should be more people on a holiday weekend.

"Obviously, it's not as good as we want because of the weather," he said, but added that rough weather sometimes gives his business a boost because people can't go to the beach.

Satellite imagery of Tropical Storm Lee as it made landfall over Louisiana, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011.
National Hurricane Center

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