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Tropical Storm Lee: New Orleans Residents Brace for Rain, Flooding

Stockbyte/Thinkstock (NEW ORLEANS) -- Heavy rain from Tropical Storm Lee pounded the Gulf Coast Saturday as it approached New Orleans—bringing as much as 20 inches of rain and testing the strength of the levees that failed six years ago.

The rain has been relentless, coming down nonstop since Friday morning along with winds gusting as high as 40 mph.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect from Pascagoula, Miss., across the coast to Sabine Pass, Texas.

A number of tornado watches and warnings were in effect in the area though none have been reported thus far.

In South Mississippi, Kazimier Buryn is one of many racing the clock to get everything they need before the storm touches down.

"You're better off to have stuff that you don't need instead of wishing that you had gone and done something about it when it's too late," Buryn said.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency in ten parishes.

"The bottom line for folks is to know regardless of what they call it, if you live in south Louisiana, especially southeast Louisiana, you are going to see a lot of rain between now and Tuesday," Jindal said.

The storm is expected to make landfall into the state's central coast late Saturday and make its way toward New Orleans.

National Hurricane Center hurricane specialist Eric Blake said it doesn't matter where the storm lands because the effects will be felt to the same extent and in the same places regardless.

"Tropical storm force winds and heavy rains are spread out all the way from Louisiana to Alabama and almost into northwest Florida," Blake said.

Louisiana residents are not taking any chances.

They are sandbagging, cleaning out storm drains and getting ready for torrential rain.

New Orleans could get as much as 20 inches of rain, putting the city at risk for major flooding.

"In other communities when the storm surge comes in, it comes in and it goes out. Here, it comes in, it has to be pumped out because we're in a bowl,” said John Young, Jefferson Parish president.

It was six years ago almost to the day that Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.

Pump operators are working overtime until the storm system passes.

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ABC News Radio