Video: Tropical Storm Lee drenches South

  1. Closed captioning of: Tropical Storm Lee drenches South

    >>> lee has brought soaking rains inland after drenching the gulf coast and the florida panhandle . mike seidel joins me from brandon, mississippi . good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening. the rain at the reservoir has ended as what's left of tropical storm lee heads northeast. the storm is responsible for one death in nearby jackson , mississippi . it's also spawned as many as 20 tornadoes as the damage continues to mount. suburban atlanta is the latest and largest city to feel the remnants of lee. strong winds and a possible tornado brought down several trees.

    >> this is a serious situation. potential tornadoes circulation right now.

    >> reporter: while in gulf shores , alabama, rough surf may have taken the life of a 16-year-old. lee has already brought three days of misery to lafitte, louisiana where strong winds forced the water in and persistent rain kept it rising.

    >> i'm disgusted. if this wasn't my home, i'd be gone.

    >> reporter: this family has lived here for more than 100 years. today she and her husband guided their canoe down the street named for her family.

    >> nobody expected it to be this bad. i don't think we had this much water for katrina.

    >> reporter: at the camelot apartments in jackson , residents evacuated, but henry jenkins stayed behind to start the cleanup.

    >> i just tried to block some of it out, but it came in so much there wasn't nothing to do.

    >> reporter: outside lori jones was hard at work in her oven mitts clearing debris to help the water recede.

    >> we have a lot of trash stuck up in them when it rains.

    >> reporter: look at the volume of water over the spillway. it's higher than average because we had over a foot of rain last night in jackson , mississippi and look what it did to the pearl river . it's come up more than 20 feet since this time yesterday, expected to top flood stage overnight tonight. in many places the problem is not water but wind. a tornado hit in florida, leaving behind shattered buildings and grateful residents.

    >> i woke up to a half a house, and the greatest thing is i woke up to a whole mother. that's my biggest concern.

    >> reporter: the bad news tonight is what's left of irene -- i should say tropical storm lee , a big blob of tropical moisture is heading northeast into some of the same areas saturated by the rain from irene, and that means it won't take much rain to kick in more flash flooding . kate.

    >> they're still recovering from that.

updated 9/6/2011 3:35:02 PM ET 2011-09-06T19:35:02

Heavy rain from the former Tropical Storm Lee rolled northeast into Appalachian states Tuesday, spreading the threat of flooding as far as New England after drenching the South, spawning tornadoes, sweeping several people away and knocking out power to thousands.

At least four people died because of the rough winds and drenching rains.

Lee also churned up heavy surf that sent tar balls washing onto Alabama's prime tourist beaches. The globs of oil found so far were very small, Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said, and their origin was unclear.

In Gulf Shores, black and brown chunks of tar ranging from the size of marbles to nearly the size of baseballs were on the beach. Brandon Franklin, the city's coastal claims manager, said samples would be sent to Auburn University for chemical testing to determine if the tar is from last year's BP oil spill.

Oil from the spill had soiled Gulf Coast beaches during the summer tourist season a year ago, though officials said the tar balls found so far didn't compare with the thick oil found on beaches then.

BP isn't taking responsibility for the tar balls just yet. It has sent survey teams to conduct post-storm assessments along coastal beaches to determine what may have developed on the beaches and barrier islands as a result of Lee. The oil giant is prepared to mobilize response crews to affected areas if necessary, spokesman Tom Mueller said.

Connie Harris of Alabaster, Ala., had spent the Labor Day weekend in nearby Gulf Shores and came back from a walk on the beach to find she had to scrub her feet with a wash cloth and soap.

"When we walked on the beach, we had tar on our feet," she said.

Meanwhile, more rain was expected in parts of Tennessee that already saw precipitation records fall on Labor Day. Tornado watches covered much of North and South Carolina and flooding was forecast along the upper Potomac River and some of its tributaries in West Virginia and western Maryland.

Flood watches and warnings were in effect from northeast Alabama and Tennessee through West Virginia to upstate New York, already soaked by Irene. Rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches, with isolated spots up to 10 inches, were possible as heavy rain spread into the central Appalachians, the National Weather Service's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center said.

In Georgia, officials at Fort Stewart said a lightning strike sent about 22 soldiers to the hospital Monday, with at least three kept overnight.

Video: Tropical Storm Lee drenches South (on this page)

Fort Stewart spokesman Pat Young said the soldiers were on the post's Donovan Field in a large tent that may have been directly hit by lightning. He said there were no initial reports of burns and 18 of the soldiers were released back to active duty Monday evening.

Rain kept falling Tuesday in Chattanooga, Tenn., which went from its driest-ever month in August with barely a drop to a record one-day deluge of 8.16 inches by 5 p.m. Monday. By dawn Tuesday, 10 inches of rain had fallen in the state's fourth-largest city.

Numerous roads were flooded, and the soggy ground meant even modest winds were toppling trees. In Chattanooga, a tree fell onto a woman while she was moving her car, killing her, said police Sgt. Jerri Weary.

The storm system churned up treacherous waters across the South. In Mississippi, a man drowned while trying to cross a swollen creek, while authorities called off the search for a missing swimmer presumed dead off Alabama. Another man died after trying to cross a swollen creek near a dam in suburban Atlanta.

Rain in Alabama flooded numerous Birmingham roads. The storm also caused a roof to collapse at Pinson Valley High School outside Birmingham, according to The Birmingham News. No injuries were reported.

As many as 200,000 lost power across Alabama as the storm moved through, with most of the outages in the Birmingham area, Alabama Power spokeswoman Keisa Sharpe said. By early Tuesday, the number of outages was down to 187,000, she said. Power outages were also reported in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Chainsaws and blue tarps were coming out in Georgia neighborhoods hit by suspected twisters that ripped off siding and shingles and sent trees crashing through roofs. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency said about 100 homes were damaged in Cherokee County, about 30 miles north of Atlanta.

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.

Areas of Louisiana and Mississippi that bore the brunt of Lee over the weekend were also cleaning up. 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 fell 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.

Residents in Lee's wake are worrying about the effects of soggy ground. Part of a levee holding back a lake in Mississippi's Rankin County gave way, endangering some homes and a sod farm. Rankin County Road Manager George Bobo said officials could order evacuations of the few homes if the situation gets worse. The indention left by the levee slide didn't go all the way through to the water, though.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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