BRAITHWAITE, La. — Pickups hauling boat trailers and flatbed trucks laden with crab traps exited vulnerable, low-lying areas of southeast Louisiana on Friday as Tropical Storm Karen headed toward the northern Gulf Coast, a late-arriving worry in what had been a slow hurricane season in the U.S.
On Friday afternoon, Alabama joined Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida in declaring a state of emergency as officials and residents prepared for Karen, expected to near the central Gulf Coast on Saturday as a weak hurricane or tropical storm. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Interior Department recalled workers, furloughed because of the government shut down, to deal with the storm and help state and local agencies.
Karen would be the second named storm of a quiet hurricane season to make landfall in the U.S. — the first since Tropical Storm Andrea hit Florida in June. Along with strong winds, the storm was forecast to produce rainfall of 3 to 6 inches through Sunday night. Isolated rain totals of up to 10 inches were possible.
As of 8 p.m. EDT Friday, Karen was about 235 miles (378 kilometers) south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It had been nearly stationary for several hours, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). Forecast tracks showed the storm possibly crossing the southeast Louisiana coast before veering eastward toward south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. But forecasters cautioned that the track was uncertain.
“We are confident on a northeastward turn. Just not exactly sure where or when that turn will occur,” said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Conditions were not ripe for the storm’s strengthening. A hurricane watch was dropped Friday afternoon. A tropical storm watch stretched from the mouth of the Pearl River to Destin, Fla. A tropical storm warning was in effect from Morgan City, La., to the mouth of the Pearl, which extends from Mississippi to far-eastern Louisiana.