Tropical Storm Lee's outer bands pelt Gulf Coast

By the Associated Press | September 3, 2011 | 2:25 AM EDT

Robert Gibbs, from Newton, Miss., keeps his footing as he is hit by a wave in the surf Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Dauphin Island, Ala. Forecasters have issued tropical storm warnings for the U.S. Gulf coast from Mississippi to Texas as a depression has organized in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/Mobile Press-Register, G.M. Andrews) NO SALES; MAGS OUT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Bands of rain from Tropical Storm Lee were pelting the Gulf Coast as the storm's center trudged slowly toward land.

The storm produced rain in southeast Louisiana early Saturday morning and could bring as many as 20 inches to some areas.

Lee's top sustained winds were 50 mph (80 kph), and it was moving north at 5 mph (7 kph). The center of the storm was about 170 miles west-southwest of the Mississippi River.

Tropical storm warning flags flew from Mississippi to Texas and flash flood warnings extended along the Alabama coast into the Florida Panhandle.

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