Tropical Storm Karen forecast to lash Gulf Coast

Hurricane watch cancelled as Karen expected to be near Gulf Coast on Saturday


ORLANDO, Fla.Tropical Storm Karen is poised to become the first named storm to hit the U.S. during what had been a relatively quiet hurricane season.

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Karen is forecast to lash the northern Gulf Coast over the weekend as a weak hurricane or tropical storm.

"The storm is not expected to gain much more strength and is still set to make landfall near the Panhandle late Saturday into Sunday morning," said Local 6 Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells.


The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Friday that Karen was about 205 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph with higher gusts.

Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida declared states of emergency.

The storm is expected to bring increased cloud cover to the Orlando area. The biggest impacts for Central Florida will be an increased chance of rain on Sunday of 30 percent, Sorrells said.

Dry air continues to keep any rain chance from developing with an overnight low of 71 on Friday and a light breeze from the east.

Rain chances will increase to 30 percent for Saturday and Sunday. High temperatures will be in the upper 80s from Friday into next week.

The hurricane watch was canceled on Friday evening from Grand Isle, La., to west of Destin, Fla. A tropical storm watch stretches from the mouth of the Pearl River to Destin, Fla. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Morgan City, La., to the mouth of the Pearl.

Meantime, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and the Florida National guard have recalled some of their workers who were furloughed by the government shutdown to prepare for the storm.

About 86 percent of FEMA's workforce was sent home on Tuesday, and officials are not saying how many will be called back for Karen.

The Florida National Guard recalled about 24 of the 1,000 civilian employees who were furloughed, and more may be called back depending on how severe Karen becomes.

"Our number one priority is the safety of our citizens," said Florida Governor Rick Scott.  "We will not let the government shutdown in Washington in any way hurt our emergency response efforts in Florida."

Tropical Storm Karen also delayed two Carnival cruise ships from their homeport in New Orleans.

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