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Tropical system brews stormy US Gulf Coast weekend
US Gulf Coast braces for heavy rain from tropical depression; heavy rain predicted)
By The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) ' A tropical depression packing walloping rains for the U.S. Gulf Coast was spreading its bands over southern Louisiana on Friday.

The depression could become Tropical Storm Lee, the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the system will dump up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain over southern areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through Sunday.

Louisiana's governor declared a state of emergency Thursday because of the threat of flash flooding. Tropical storm warnings were issued from Mississippi to Texas, including New Orleans, and flash flood warnings extended along the Alabama coast into the Florida Panhandle.

The water-logged system is tantalizingly close to Texas but still too far away to alleviate the state's worst drought since the 1950s.

Storm watchers were also monitoring Hurricane Katia, spinning in open waters 705 miles (1,134 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands and moving west-northwest at 14 mph (23 kph). It regained hurricane strength with maximum sustained winds Friday of 75 mph (121 kph) on Friday.

Forecasters said it would continue to grow stronger. It is expected to pass north of the Caribbean but the hurricane center said it was too early to tell if Katia will hit the U.S.

There was also a slow-moving low pressure system about 450 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, that had a 60 percent chance Friday of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next two days.

The disturbances come on the heels of Hurricane Irene, which brought destruction from North Carolina to New England in late August.

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