JEAN LAFITTE, La. — Bands of heavy rain and strong wind gusts from Tropical Storm Lee knocked out power to thousands in Louisiana and Mississippi on Saturday and prompted evacuations in bayou towns like Jean Lafitte, where water was lapping at the front doors of some homes.
The sluggish storm stalled just offshore for several hours before resuming its slow march northward late in the afternoon. Landfall was expected later in the day, and the storm threatened to dump more than a foot of rain across the Gulf Coast and into the Southeast in coming days. No injuries were reported, but there were scattered instances of water entering low-lying homes and businesses in Louisiana.
ers were suffering at many coastal businesses that depend on a strong Labor Day weekend. Alabama beaches that would normally be packed were largely empty, and rough seas closed the Port of Mobile. Mississippi's coastal casinos, however, were open and reporting brisk business.
In Jean Laffite, water was a foot deep under Eva Alexie's house, which is raised about eight feet off the flat ground.
"I should be used to this," said Alexie, a 76-year-old storm veteran who lost a home to Hurricane Ike in 2008. "It happens pretty often. I just thank God it won't be getting in my house this time."
She clutched an umbrella and a pair of blue rubber gloves as she walked down Louisiana Highway 45, on her way to her husband's shrimp boat to clean a recent catch.
The center of the slow-moving storm was about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Lafayette, La., Saturday afternoon, spinning intermittent bands of stormy weather, alternating with light rain and occasional sunshine. It was moving north at about 4 mph (6 kph) in the late afternoon.
Its maximum sustained winds were 60 mph (97 kph), but their intensity was expected to decrease by Sunday. Tropical storm warnings stretched from the Louisiana-Texas state line to Destin, Fla.
The National Weather Service in Slidell said parts of New Orleans received between 6 and 8 inches of rain between Thursday morning and Saturday afternoon, and that coastal Mississippi points reported more than 6 inches. Officials in some suburban and rural areas of southeast Louisiana reported more than 10 inches.
Forecasts said that isolated areas could get as many as 20 inches.
The Entergy utility company reported more than 37,000 customer outages at one point Saturday morning but that was down to below 18,000 by afternoon as the utility restored electricity. Cleco Corp., another major utility, reported 3,500 outages.
In New Orleans, sporadic downpours caused some street flooding in low-lying areas early Saturday, but pumps were sucking up the water and sending it into Lake Pontchartrain. Lee's surge so far had not penetrated levees along the coast, said National Weather Service forecaster Robert Ricks in Slidell, La.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu warned residents not to let their guard down, saying: "We're not out of the woods. Don't go to sleep on this storm."
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.
To the east, coastal Mississippi officials expected their worst from the storm late Saturday afternoon.
"We've been getting some pretty good onshore rains," said Jackson County emergency director Donald Langham.