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News Wrap: Tropical Storm Lee’s Remnants Push Through Appalachia

September 6, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Flood warnings from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee extended all the way into New England today, as the system pushed north. Some of the worst downpours came in Chattanooga, Tenn., with more than nine inches of rain.

This time-lapse photography showed the storm passing over Atlanta. Some 200,000 customers there and elsewhere lost power. Meanwhile, Hurricane Katia kept coming toward Bermuda, but weakened slightly with sustained winds near 105 miles an hour. It is still expected to veer away from the U.S. mainland.

The plague of wildfires in Texas has now spread to more than 100,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. That word came today as dozens of fires continued to burn. Some of the worst were southeast of Austin in rural Bastrop County. Nearly 600 homes have been destroyed there. In addition, 5,000 people have been forced to flee the smoke and fire in the region.

Gov. Rick Perry took a break from his presidential campaign today to survey the damage.

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-Texas presidential candidate: We have got a lot of Texans living in shelters now, living with friends, and a reflection of Texans taking care of Texans. It’s what they do, living with friends and loved ones and in some cases rank strangers taking care of people they never met before.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Authorities have blamed at least two deaths on the fires in recent days.

Convoys of Moammar Gadhafi’s armed loyalists fled Libya today. His security chief and a dozen other former officials were said to be among them. The news came as rebels pressed for the surrender of a key town southeast of Tripoli.

We have a report from Bill Neely of Independent Television News.

(GUNFIRE) 

BILL NEELY: These days, the rebels fire more bullets in the air than at the enemy, because every day they believe they’re closer to ending Gadhafi’s final resistance.

These men are closing in on the town of Bani Walid, where Gadhafi himself and his sons once took refuge. Gadhafi’s spokesman, who is in the town, says his leader is still in Libya, somewhere NATO and the rebels won’t find him. Gadhafi is in very high spirits, he says.

But it’s what happened on the road south of here that is intriguing and that is exciting the rebels, a military convoy fleeing through the desert towns for hundreds of miles and out of Libya. The convoy was heavily armed, up to 250 vehicles, crossing the Sahara into Niger yesterday. Rebels say up to a dozen vehicles contain gold and money from the central bank of Gadhafi’s hometown, Sirte.

The convoy is now heading south through Niger towards the capital, where the government has given it permission to cross into neighboring Burkina Faso. Its president has offered Colonel Gadhafi refuge.

Back in Libya, these are the men in power now, embracing elders from a town still under the control of Gadhafi’s men. Inside a mosque, they negotiate. The elders say people in Bani Walid are terrified. Gadhafi’s men have told everyone the rebels are al-Qaida killers. The rebels assure them they’re not.

At the peace talks, there are guns aplenty, on the telephone, Libya’s prime minister and surely the strangest speech he’s yet made, reassuring them that, if Bani Walid surrenders, there will be no reprisals.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Washington, a State Department spokesman said Gadhafi wasn’t among those who fled Libya today.

But, in New York, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said no one knows much more than that.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: I wish I knew. I don’t — you know, I don’t have any information as to exactly where he’s located. I think — I mean, the best information we have is that he’s on the run. But as to where he is and where he’s located, I don’t have any information.

HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. officials have been talking with all of Libya’s neighboring governments to make clear that Gadhafi must be brought to justice.

The world weighed on Wall Street today. Stocks fell sharply at the outset over concerns about Europe’s debt troubles. The market recovered somewhat as the day went on, but the Dow Jones industrial average still lost nearly 101 points to close at 11,139. The Nasdaq fell six points to close at 2,473.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.