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New Orleans finds tropical storm Lee is no Katrina

So far, tropical storm Lee hasn't been a weather monster. Its rains brought relief to a drought in southern Louisiana and quenched a marsh fire that had blanketed New Orleans with smoke.

By Bill SasserCorrespondent / September 4, 2011

Waves in Lake Pontchartrain from tropical storm Lee crash into a seawall in the West End section of New Orleans on Saturday, Sept. 3. Heavy rain and strong wind gusts from Lee knocked out power to thousands in south Louisiana and Mississippi.

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New Orleans

New Orleans braced this weekend for its first direct dose of tropical weather since hurricane Katrina devastated the city six years ago.

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Thankfully, tropical storm Lee has so far proven to be less of a weather monster than a Labor Day washout, its rains bringing relief to a longstanding drought in southern Louisiana and quenching a marsh fire that had blanketed metro New Orleans with smoke and sent scores of residents to local hospitals.

While the storm closed Grand Isle and other Gulf beaches for the holiday weekend – a blow to coastal areas that are still recovering from the economic disaster of last year’s BP oil spill – New Orleans’ French Quarter remained busy Sunday afternoon, with poncho-draped visitors venturing out between bands of rainfall.

Southern Decadence, an annual Labor Day gay pride event that usually draws over 100,000 visitors, went on as planned with a beauty contest and walking parade down Royal Street.

“This is usually our busiest weekend of the year and this year is no exception,” said Wendi Salciccia of Bijou Nola, a jewelry shop just off of Royal Street. “Katrina happened on this same weekend, and people here are justifiably nervous about watching a storm in the Gulf, but that’s life in New Orleans. You don’t get used to it, you just learn to roll with it.”

A few blocks down Rampart Street in the city’s Treme neighborhood, however, the Black Men of Labor – one of the city’s oldest Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs – canceled its annual second line parade, the season’s largest, and rescheduled for Halloween.

Tropical storm Lee capped an unpleasant weather week for the New Orleans area, with triple digit heat indexes and a wildfire in New Orleans East that burned over 1,000 acres of marshland, prompting smoke alerts in six suburban parishes. The haze reached as far west as Baton Rouge and reduced visibility in the French Quarter to two city blocks.

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