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    US Gulf Coast Bracing for Rain as Storm Approaches

    A photo provided the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the tropical low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico, September 1, 2011 at 2015 UTC.
    A photo provided the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the tropical low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico, September 1, 2011 at 2015 UTC.

    The National Hurricane Center says a tropical depression is located less than 400 kilometers southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River, with maximum winds of 55 kilometers an hour. Forecasters expect it to evolve into a tropical storm named Lee, making it the 12th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

    A tropical storm warning has been issued for parts of Louisiana, including the city of New Orleans. The warning is also in effect in the neighboring states of Mississippi and Texas. The storm could release as much as 50 centimeters of rain over some areas. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal issued the emergency order to prepare residents and officials for the threat of flooding.  

    Oil companies such as Shell, Exxon Mobil and BP have shut down their oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and evacuated workers.  The hurricane center said winds of tropical storm force were being reported on oil rigs in the area.

    The news comes as emergency crews continue to help residents recover from a hurricane that ravaged the eastern U.S. just days ago.

    Flooding devastated parts of the states of Vermont, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Irene brought high winds and heavy rains to the eastern U.S.

    Hundreds of thousands of people in the region are still without power, and many schools remain closed.  Roads in the area are under repair.

    Irene hit North Carolina Saturday with 120 kilometer per hour winds, before moving up the East Coast and weakening.

    Irene is blamed for at least 45 deaths in the U.S. and five in the Caribbean, and has caused billions of dollars of damage.  U.S. President Barack Obama signed disaster declarations for New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, making federal funding available for recovery efforts.

    Obama is scheduled to visit the state of New Jersey on Sunday to view wind and flood damage from Irene.

    Meanwhile, forecasters are monitoring Tropical Storm Katia in the Atlantic, which is moving west with maximum sustained winds of 110 kilometers per hour.

    Katia was briefly strong enough to be classified as a Category One hurricane on the five-point scale of hurricane intensity.  Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect it to regain strength and become a major hurricane within the next couple days. It is the second Atlantic hurricane of the season.

    September is normally the peak of the hurricane season.  Experts predicted an active 2011 hurricane season with eight to 10 hurricanes possible, which would be slightly more than normal.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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