Tropical Storm Karen Heads for Gulf States, May Become Hurricane

Forecasters predict the storm could become the third Atlantic hurricane this season.

Tropical Storm Karen is on track to hit the Gulf states by Saturday night.
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Tropical Storm Karen formed in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday and is expected to make its way toward the southern Gulf states this weekend.

Karen currently has maximum wind speeds of 65 mph and is located about 485 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters expect the storm to strengthen during the next two days, and say there is a chance Karen could become a hurricane as early as Friday. A tropical storm is classified as a hurricane when maximum wind speeds reach 74 mph.

[READ: 'Katrina-Like' Hurricanes to Occur More Frequently Due to Warming, Study Says]

But Karen isn't expected to reach land until Saturday night, at which point it's likely that wind speeds will have decreased and it will again be classified as a tropical storm.

Still, the area between eastern Louisiana and western Florida has been put under tropical storm and hurricane watches, as Karen may still bring wind speeds of up to 60 mph and heavy rainfall.

 

After passing through the Gulf states, Karen is expected to continue moving northward, and up along the coast, but in a significantly weaker state, according to the Weather Channel. By Tuesday morning, the storm could reach parts of northern Virginia, but its maximum wind speeds will likely drop to about 25 mph.

Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that the Atlantic Ocean would have an above average hurricane season, and it would be likely that between six and nine hurricanes would occur throughout the season (from June 1 to Nov. 30).

[ALSO: Tropical Storm Humberto Could Become First Atlantic Hurricane of the Season]

So far, there have been two hurricanes in the Atlantic: Humberto and Ingrid, both of which occurred in mid-September. Ingrid weakened back into a tropical storm before reaching land near La Pesca, Mexico, but still brought heavy rainfall that caused flash flooding and mudslides that killed more than 30 people.

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