The New Orleans region braced for Tropical Storm Lee on Saturday, with the morning marked by some evacuation orders, flooding and tornado warnings.

Slow-moving Lee was lumbering toward the city, expected to bring torrential rains that would put the flood defenses of low-lying New Orleans to the test, but in the afternoon the sun was peaking out between squalls that seemed to be producing only light rain.

There were no early reports of casualties or major damage, and while traffic was light on New Orleans streets, they were mostly clear and passable, despite ponds here and there where storm drains were clogged.

Rain had also eased in coastal areas south of New Orleans, according to local reports. There, the biggest problem was continuing strong winds pushing water into low areas outside the levee system.

Jefferson Parish President John Young said tidal surge threatened those areas.

The parish, covering much of the city's suburbs, had ordered a mandatory evacuation for the towns of Lafitte, Crown Point and Barataria, council member Chris Roberts said.

Heavy rains and tidal surge pushed Bayou Barataria over its banks in the area near New Orleans, and Roberts said if residents in low-lying spots didn't leave now, it could be a couple of days before they were able to get out.

In the city, some visitors and residents, like newlyweds Tara and Jeff DeMond of St. Louis, were trying to adjust to the weather.

Clad in a sleek white dress and still holding her bridal bouquet, Tara stood in the lobby of Hotel Monteleone signing a marriage certificate as her husband looked on.

We were planning to take a gondola ride in City Park and then get married in the park, under the old oak trees until the rain squelched the plan, Jeff DeMond said.

Then, they thought they might try to hold the ceremony next to the pool on the hotel's rooftop, but rain squalls ruined that idea too.

The hotel concierge came to the rescue, offering the pair the use of a suite. We finally got married at 10 o'clock in Suite 1450, Tara DeMond said with a laugh.

In the French Quarter, visitors in town for the annual Southern Decadence festival wandered about in intermittent rain, sans umbrellas.


Alex Galvez and Jose Ruiz, who had traveled from Chicago, had mixed feelings about the rain. Galvez said he was disappointed an outdoor music festival had been canceled.

He said they hadn't checked the weather forecast before they came. We forgot to Google it, he joked, but said the forecast would not have deterred them. We've had the reservations for a year.

The city's immediate situation had looked grimmer in the early morning, when the 24-mile causeway across Lake Pontchartrain near the city was closed for a time amid heavy rains and tornado warnings.

The prospect of flooding in low-lying New Orleans evoked memories of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded 80 percent of the city, killed 1,500 people and caused more than $80 billion in damage in 2005. Half of the city lies below sea level and is protected by a system of levees and flood gates.

However, although some streets were flooded, drainage pumps were reported to be working and there were no early reports of water in homes or businesses in the city.

Everything looks pretty good right now, said Ken Holder, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the city's flood defenses.

Bands of heavy rain had moved through the area overnight and through the early morning hours, bringing rain totals above 10 inches in some parts of the city.

A few reports of water entering homes had come in lower Terrebonne Parish, according to parish Emergency Management Director Earl Eues.

Some streets were flooded in Houma and Dulac, and he said a voluntary evacuation advisory was in effect for low-lying areas of the parish, nearest the coast. About 60 people had gone to a shelter the parish opened.

In suburban Plaquemines Parish, Parish President Billy Nungesser reported a lot of flooding on Highway 23, with one lane completely underwater near the Empire Bridge.

Intermittent power outages occurred in some neighborhoods. Utility company Entergy reported 38,000 customers, primarily in the New Orleans area, were without power.

The storm was expected to bring up to 20 inches of rain to southeast Louisiana over the next few days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.