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Tropical storm warnings for US

A tropical depression packing heavy rains for the US Gulf Coast is spreading its bands over southern Louisiana.

The depression could become Tropical Storm Lee, the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. The US National Hurricane Centre said the system will dump up to 20 inches of rain over southern areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through until Sunday.

Louisiana's governor declared a state of emergency on 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 tantalisingly close to Texas but still too far away to alleviate the state's worst drought since the 1950s.

Storm watchers are also monitoring Hurricane Katia, spinning in open waters 700 miles east of the Leeward Islands and moving west-northwest at 14 mph, after it regained hurricane strength with maximum sustained winds of 75mph.

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

There is also a slow-moving low pressure system about 450 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, that has a 60% chance 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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