By BRIAN K. SULLIVAN
Tropical Storm Karen weakened as it moved northward through
the Gulf of Mexico to the US coast, where the system is
forecast to make landfall over the weekend with heavy rain and
Top sustained winds for Karen, which is no longer expected to
become a hurricane, dropped to 50 miles (80 kilometers) per
hour, from 60 mph earlier. It was 275 miles south-southeast of
Morgan City, Louisiana, moving north-northwest at 9 mph,
according to a National Hurricane Center advisory at 12
p.m. Louisiana time.
The environment does not look favorable for significant
intensification, with moderate shear expected to continue for
the next day or two, Michael Brennan, a senior hurricane
specialist at the center in Miami, said.
Wind shear is when winds blow at varying speeds or directions
at different altitudes. If the shear in Karens path
relaxes, the storm might get a chance to strengthen, Brennan
wrote. Winds are pushing the more intense thunderstorms away
from Karens center, making it harder for the storm to
become more powerful, said Matt Rogers, president of the
Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Maryland.
A weaker storm means less chance for damage to offshore energy
operations in the Gulf, Rogers said. The region is home to 23%
of US crude production, 5.6% of gas output and more than 45% of
petroleum refining capacity, according to the
About 39% of gas
production and almost half of Gulf oil output was closed by
the storm, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental
Enforcement said Friday. In all, 185 platforms and 18 rigs
were evacuated, accounting for 693,345 bpd of oil and about 1.5
billion cubic feet/day of gas.
Were not expecting any strengthening, were
kind of thinking it will stay the same or weaken, said
Jared Smith, a meteorologist at MDA Weather Services in
The hurricane center predicts Karen will clip the southeastern
tip of Louisiana late Saturday or early the next day and then
go ashore close to Mobile, Alabama. The system may drive tides
3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) above normal from the Mississippi
to Mobile Bay.
The biggest threat from the storm may be heavy rains and
tornadoes as it comes ashore, said Dan Kottlowski, a
meteorologist at AccuWeather in State College,
Three to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) of rain may fall
through the central and eastern Gulf, with some areas receiving
as much as 10 inches, according to the center.
Karen may be a depression or a weak tropical
storm upon landfall this weekend, but even the strongest models
still keep the storm well below damaging threshold
levels, Rogers said. Poor Karen is really
struggling this morning.
A hurricane watch, meaning storm conditions may arrive in two
days, is still in effect from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to west of
Destin, Florida. That may be changed to a tropical storm watch
or warning later today, according to the center.
In addition, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Grand
Isle to Morgan City. A storm watch is in place for New Orleans,
Lake Maurepas, Lake Pontchartrain and from Destin to Indian Pass, Florida.
Karen is the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season,
which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. The system would be the
second to hit the US this year. Tropical Storm Andrea make
landfall on northwestern Florida in June and then moved up the