A tropical storm churning into the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico is expected to bring heavy rain to the Cullman area Sunday and Monday.

Flash flooding and possible severe thunderstorms may accompany the tropical storm when it arrives, said Phyllis Little, director of the Cullman County Emergency Management Agency.

“We also can’t rule out small tornadic activity,” Little said. “But we do know heavy rain is in our future, anywhere from seven to eight inches.”

High winds could also cause tree limbs to fall during the heaviest periods of the storm.

Morning skies were overcast with spotty rain on the Alabama coast Friday morning, but workers were still putting boats in the water for the Labor Day weekend at Sportsman Marina in Orange Beach, Ala.

“A lot of people go into a panic, but it’s mainly just going to be a rainmaker,” marina manager Ricky Garrett said. “We’re really not taking any precautions.”

On the Mississippi coast, tourism officials said there was no spike in cancellations for the holiday weekend at hotels and casinos.

On Grand Isle, Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island, people kept an eye on the storm that was already bringing rain there. It’s not as frightening as having a Category 2 or 3 hurricane bearing down, said June Brignac, owner of the Wateredge Beach Resort.

“But we’re still concerned with all the rain that’s coming in, causing possible flooding of the highway going out. If we don’t leave, we may be trapped here until it’s completely past,” she said.

The rain, however, had a silver lining. In New Orleans, it was helping to tamp down a stubborn marsh fire that for several days has sent pungent smoke wafting across the area.

Forecasters say that Lee’s maximum sustained winds have increased to 45 mph (75 kph), from 40 mph (65 kph), and could increase further.

Governors in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as the mayor of New Orleans, declared states of emergency. Officials in several coastal Louisiana communities called for voluntary evacuations.

The Army Corps of Engineers was closing floodgates along the Harvey Canal, a commercial waterway in suburban New Orleans, but had not moved to shut a massive flood structure on the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet shipping channel.

The MRGO was a major conduit for Katrina’s storm surge, which overwhelmed levees and flooded St. Bernard and the city’s Lower 9th Ward.

City officials said they expect some street flooding but no levee problems. Lee’s storm surge, projected around 4 to 5 feet, is far short of the 20-feet-plus driven by Katrina. Billions of federal dollars have been spent on new levees and other flood protection.

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