Tempest targets Gulf Coast
NEW ORLEANS — From a tiny, vulnerable island off the Louisiana coast to the beaches of the Florida Panhandle, Gulf Coast residents prepared on Thursday for a possible hit from Tropical Storm Karen, which threatens to become the first named tropical system to menace the United States this year.
Karen was forecast to lash the northern Gulf Coast during the weekend as a weak hurricane or tropical storm. A hurricane watch is in effect from Grand Isle, La., to west of Destin, Fla. A tropical storm warning was issued for the Louisiana coast from Grand Isle to the mouth of the Pearl River, including the New Orleans area.
In Alabama, safety workers hoisted double red flags at Gulf Shores because of treacherous rip currents before the storm.
In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant and state Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham urged coastal residents to be prepared. Latham said local schools will decide whether to play football games. He said the southern part of the state could have tropical storm-force wind by late Friday.
“I know that Friday night football in the South is a big thing, but I don't think anybody wants to risk a life because of the potential winds,” Latham said.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency, citing the possibility of high wind, heavy rain and tides. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared an emergency for 18 counties.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it is closing a structure intended to keep storm surge out of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal in Louisiana — known locally as the Industrial Canal — where levee breaches during Hurricane Katrina led to catastrophic flooding in 2005.
Mayor David Camardelle of Grand Isle, an inhabited barrier island and tourist town about 60 miles south of New Orleans, called for voluntary evacuations as he declared an emergency.
Louisiana officials are taking precautions while noting that forecasts show the storm veering to the east. The storm track had it likely brushing the southeastern tip of the state before heading toward the Alabama-Florida coast. And it was moving faster than last year's Hurricane Isaac, a weak storm that stalled over the area and caused widespread flooding.
“It should make that fork right and move out very, very quickly,” said Jerry Sneed, head of New Orleans' emergency preparedness office.
Offshore, at least two oil companies said they are evacuating non-essential personnel and securing rigs and platforms.
In Washington, the White House said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is recalling some workers furloughed in the government shutdown to prepare for the storm.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Karen was about 400 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River Thursday evening and had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph with higher gusts. The storm was moving north-northwest at 12 mph. It could be at or near hurricane strength late Friday and early Saturday, forecasters said.
In Mexico's Caribbean coast state of Quintana, the brief passage of Karen before the storm moved north caused authorities to close seaports and some schools, but little rain was actually reported.
A few fishing camps and small hamlets along the coast were ordered evacuated late Wednesday, and some boat services were suspended for the estimated 35,000 tourists currently in Cancun. But the head of the Cancun Hotel Association, Roberto Cintron, said tourists appeared to be taking it in stride.
While meteorologists said it was too soon to predict the storm's ultimate intensity, they said it could weaken a bit as it approaches the coast over the weekend.
“Our forecast calls for it to be right around the border of a hurricane and a tropical storm,” said David Zelinsky, a hurricane center meteorologist.
Whether it's a weak hurricane or strong tropical storm, Karen's effects are expected to be largely the same: Heavy rain with the potential for similar storm surge.
Forecasters say Karen is expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to portions of the central and eastern Gulf Coast through Sunday night, mainly near and to the right of the path of the center.
Camardelle, whose vulnerable island is often the first to order an evacuation in the face of a tropical weather system, said the town is making sure its 10 pump stations are ready. He encouraged residents to clean out drainage culverts and ditches in anticipation of possible heavy rain and high tides.
“Hopefully, this one is just a little rain event,” Camardelle said. “We don't need a big storm coming at us this late in the season.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Blizzard-stricken East digs out amid forecast 2nd-guessing
- House passes bill aimed at expediting natural gas exports
- Pittsburgh travelers feel effects of Northeast blizzard
- New York father kils 3 generations of family, himself
- Ramping up e-cigarette voltage may be more hazardous to health
- Medicare payments to tie doctor, hospital payments to quality rather than volume of care
- Orcas could land on endangered list
- VA plans major structure changes; Pittsburgh’s fate as regional HQ remains unclear
- Wisconsin’s Walker takes first step toward possible run in 2016
- Marine Corps’ general outlines priorities, vision
- Gunfire kills 3 at party in vacant house in Omaha