Tropical Storm Karen is continuing its path toward the Gulf states Friday morning, and is expected to strengthen through Saturday night.
Karen is maintaining wind speeds of approximately 60 mph and has traveled about 200 miles in the last 24 hours. As of 8 a.m. EDT, Karen was 275 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Hurricane watches are still in effect for most of the area between eastern Louisiana (near Grand Isle) and the Florida panhandle (near Destin). Although the hurricane watch does not include metropolitan New Orleans, the area is under a tropical storm watch, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The NHS no longer predicts that Karen will become a hurricane, but high wind probabilities still keep certain areas under a hurricane watch.
Still, the storm surge combined with rising tides could bring flooding to normally dry areas, the NHS said in its advisory. If the peak surge occurs at the same time as high tide, waters could rise as high as 5 feet above ground.
"The highest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the east of where landfall occurs," the NHS said in its advisory.
In those areas, dangerous waves and related flooding could accompany the surge. Karen is also expected to bring rainfall of between 4 and 8 inches through the central and eastern Gulf Coast through Sunday night.
Just more than eight years after Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the Gulf area, and nearly one year to the day after Superstorm Sandy, coast cities are taking extra precautions when preparing for storms, which are expected to become more severe and frequent in the future.
Both Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared states of emergency as Karen approaches. Florida Gov. Rick Scott also declared a state of emergency in 18 counties on Thursday.
Scott said in a statement that Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate pledged that "no federal resource would be denied" in response to the storm, despite the ongoing federal government shutdown.
""Our number one priority is the safety of our citizens," Scott said in the statement. "We will not let the government shutdown in Washington in any way hurt our emergency response efforts in Florida."
In Louisiana, more than 7,000 members of the state National Guard are on standby for support, and Jindal mobilized 650 on Thursday.
Jindal urged residents to devise an evacuation plan, and to keep water, clothing, nonperishable food and other supplies ready.
"We are encouraging everyone to get a game plan now and stay alert by monitoring local weather conditions in their area," Jindal said in a statement. "As with every storm, we always hope for the best and prepare for the worst."