A weakened Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall in southwest Louisiana, leaving residents bracing on Wednesday for more wind, rain and possible tornadoes and hoping water would stay out of their sandbagged homes.

The storm came ashore before dawn just west of Cameron, Louisiana, bringing maximum sustained winds near 72km/h, the US National Hurricane Centre said. Harvey had lingered over Texas for days before meandering back into the Gulf of Mexico.

Authorities in Beaumont, southeast Texas, found a shivering toddler clinging to the body of her drowned mother in a rain-swollen canal.

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Captain Brad Penisson of the fire-rescue department said the woman’s vehicle got stuck on Tuesday afternoon in the flooded car park of an office just off Interstate 10. Squalls from Harvey were pounding Beaumont with up to 5cm of rain an hour at the time with 60km/h gusts, according to the National Weather Service.

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A witness saw the woman take her 18-month-old daughter and try to walk to safety when the swift current of a flooded drainage canal next to the car park swept them away.

Rescuers pulled them into the boat just before they would have gone under a railway trestle where the water was so high that the boat could not have followed. They tried to revive the woman, but she never regained consciousness.

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Weather forecasters said there was a risk of tornadoes across a large part of the South as Harvey trudged northeast towards northern Louisiana.

Another 13 to 25cm of rain could fall in western Louisiana, forecasters said.

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“We are starting to get down to the end of the tunnel of all this rain,” said Meteorologist Roger Erickson.

He warned that some coastal rivers won’t be able to drain effectively because a storm surge is aggravating flooding in areas already drenched by more than 51cm of rain. Gusts up to 80km/h were predicted for coastal areas.

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Governor John Bel Edwards urged people to remain alert but said the state is responding well to less severe conditions in its own borders.

“You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at us, but with the people in this room, I’m confident we can handle it,” he told local and state officials during a visit Tuesday to Lake Charles, which is near the Texas border.

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Edwards said Louisiana also has offered to shelter storm victims from Texas. He said he expects Texas officials to decide within 48 hours whether to accept the offer.

At least 18 people have been killed by Harvey since Friday, when it made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane.

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