Tropical storm Karen has taken shape south of the Gulf of Mexico and is being forecast to cause some troubles for the United States. There are already hurricane watches in effect from Grand Isle, Louisiana to Destin, Florida. Surface winds of over 60 miles per hour have been recorded in parts of the storm’s circulation pattern to indicate that this tropical system is very much alive and healthy. No one yet knows for sure how strong Karen will be as it moves toward the Gulf Coast but people in the storm’s path are being told to keep an eye on it as it could develop into a full blown hurricane.
At the very least, Karen could bring with it strong winds, heavy rains of over 5 inches, flooding and storm surge that could reach foot feet above normal tide levels in some Gulf Coast areas. It has been a very quiet Atlantic hurricane season thus far and tropical storm Karen may be the first named storm to strike the United States this season. Forecasters think that Karen will strike the northern portion of the Gulf Coast this weekend as a weak hurricane or a tropical storm.
The National Hurricane Center reported early Friday that the system was over 300 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi Rover and had sustained winds that maxed out at right around 65 miles per hour. Karen is moving only at about 10 miles per hour on a northwesterly path. It’s thought that the storm could be near hurricane strength by late Friday night.
Thus far, residents of south and mid Florida don’t have too much to worry about as the core of the storm is expected to stay well to the west. Karen could however impact the panhandle of the Sunshine State in the form of storm surge. Karen is the eleventh named storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season and on average, the eleventh system usually emerges during the last weekend of November.
Some oil platform work crews in the Gulf of Mexico were told to pack up and leave Thursday as Karen is approaching the area that produces about one fifth of daily US oil output. On Thursday, FEMA began recalling workers who were sent home because of the government shutdown to help make preparations for the storm.
Some forecasters think that Karen will become a hurricane by the time it reaches landfall this weekend in the Gulf. However, they also feel that the storm will weaken once it does come ashore. Hurricane Isaac is still fresh in the minds of Gulf Coast residents who suffered flooding last year from the Category 1 hurricane so Karen is not being taken lightly.