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New Orleans swamped by rains, flooding

The Associated Press

A woman reacts as she carries two children to their mother during flooding in New Orleans on Wednesday.

The Associated Press NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A storm swamped New Orleans streets and paralyzed traffic Wednesday as concerns grew that even worse weather was on the way: a possible hurricane that could strike the Gulf Coast and raise the Mississippi River to the brim of the city’s protective levees.

The storm was associated with an atmospheric disturbance in the Gulf that forecasters said was on track to strengthen into a hurricane by the weekend. The National Hurricane Center expected the system to become a tropical depression by Thursday morning, a tropical storm by Thursday night and a hurricane on Friday.

Lines of thunderstorms ranged far out into the Gulf and battered New Orleans, where as much as 18 centimeters of rain fell over a three-hour period, officials said.

Mississippi and Texas were also at risk of torrential rains.

In New Orleans, streets turned into small, swift rivers that overturned garbage cans and picked up pieces of floating wood. Water was up to the doors of many cars. Other vehicles were abandoned. Kayakers paddled their way down some streets.

At one point, the storm prompted a tornado warning. The National Weather Service planned to investigate apparent wind damage to at least one house on Bayou St. John, a channel extending from Lake Pontchartrain.

Chandris Rethmeyer lost her car to the flood and had to wade through water about 1.22 meters deep to get to safety. She was on her way home after working an overnight shift when she got stuck behind an accident in an underpass and the water started rising.

“I was going to sit in my car and let the storm pass,” she said. “But I reached back to get my son’s iPad and put my hand into a puddle of water.”

Valerie R. Burton woke up to what looked like a lake outside her door.

“There was about 3 to 4 feet of water in the street, pouring onto the sidewalks and at my door. So I went to my neighbors to alert them and tell them to move their cars,” she said.Speech

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