Tropical Storm Karen heads toward U.S. Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Karen heads toward U.S. Gulf Coast

BRACING FOR THE STORM: Workers pump water from the parking lot of the Dadeland Plaza shopping center, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, after heavy rains in Pinecrest, Fla., a suburb of Miami. Preparations began Thursday along the central Gulf Coast as newly formed Tropical Storm Karen threatened to become the first named tropical system to menace the United States this year. Photo: Associated Press/AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) – The first cyclone to threaten the U.S. coast this year moved across the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday and was forecast to sweep through offshore oil installations before hitting the mainland between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Some energy companies in the Gulf started shutting down production and evacuating workers from offshore platforms as Tropical Storm Karen approached a region that produces nearly a fifth of daily U.S. oil output.

Three days after much of the U.S. government was closed down over a budget standoff, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began recalling furloughed workers to help prepare for the storm.

Karen, the first storm of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season to take aim at the United States, had top winds of 65 mph and was centered about 340 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

It was moving north-northwest and was expected to strengthen to just below hurricane strength by late Friday, the Miami-based hurricane center said.

Coastal residents could start feeling its bluster by Friday night. On its current track the storm’s center was expected to cross the coastline near the Mississippi-Alabama border by late on Saturday.

A hurricane watch was issued for the coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana, south of New Orleans, to Destin, Florida, alerting residents to expect hurricane conditions within 48 hours.

A tropical storm watch was in effect in Louisiana from west of Grand Isle to east of Morgan City. The watch area included metropolitan New Orleans, Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain. Tropical storms carry winds of 39 mph to 73 mph.

Heavy rains were forecast all along the Gulf Coast into northern Florida, the forecasters said.

The National Hurricane Center forecasters were exempt from the U.S. government shutdown because their work is vital to protecting life and property. Their parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, advised that some weather satellite images available to the public on its website “may not be up to date” because of the shutdown.

Recent Headlines

in Music

How does it feel … to own 20 versions of Dylan’s ‘Rolling Stone?’


This $599, 18-CD release gives new meaning to "box set."

in Music

Ellie Goulding battling heart condition


The "Burn" singer received the frightening news last year, but she has been too busy to follow it up with her doctor.

in Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: This ‘Star Wars’ Disney movie mashup is amazing


What happens with the trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is combined with other Disney classics? A thing of beauty.