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Tropical Storm Karen slows down but remains a threat to the Gulf Coast

As communities along the central Gulf Coast stocked up on supplies and prepared for Tropical Storm Karen Saturday morning, the National Hurricane Center has discontinued a hurricane watch.

A tropical watch has been issued in its place.

Karen still threatens a stretch of coast from Louisiana to the Panhandle with heavy strong winds and heavy rain. The storm is expected to make landfall over the weekend.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service have had an unusually hard time predicting where Karen will strike because an approaching cold front will determine when and how far the storm will turn east.

Even though the storm’s sustained wind speeds dropped to 50 miles-per-hour Friday, the National Hurricane Center still believe it poses a threat. Strong winds may blow through the warning area as early as Saturday afternoon. A combination of storm surge and a high tide could lead to flooding and the storm could bring about six inches of rain.

Little change is expected Saturday but the storm may strengthen Sunday morning.

In South Florida, heavy rain caused in part by Tropical Storm Karen caused significant flooding Wednesday. The worse is over as the weekend climate calls for partly skies with the chance of thunderstorms in the east, particularly along the Gulf Coast.

State and federal agencies spend the end of the week preparing for the storm.

The governors of Alabama, Florida and Louisiana all a state of emergency. In Florida, it was for 18 Panhandle counties.

In Washington, during the third day of the government shutdown, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recalled furloughed workers to help prepare for Karen. On Friday, FEMA told people on the storm’s path to prepare for possible power outages.

Florida National Guard officials worried that the shutdown will affect their ability to be ready if the Guard is needed for storm preparation or recovery. About half of its 2,000 full-time federal employees were furloughed.

Friday night, Tropical Storm Karen was 235 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It travelled at 7 miles-per-hour with sustained winds of 50 miles-per-hour and thunderstorms in the northern and eastern parts of the storm.

Depending on when the storm curves east, Karen could Louisiana’s southeast coast as early as Saturday morning. The mayor of Grand Isle Louisiana ordered a mandatory evacuation Friday afternoon.

It may also turn could turn as far east as the Florida Panhandle, sending storm surge as far as Apalacha Bay.

On Friday Gov. Rick Scott cancelled a scheduled event in Orlando because of the potential threat Karen poses to Florida.

In Pensacola, rainfall is expected to average between 2-4 inches, with some areas receiving as many as eight inches. Wind gusts are forecasted to peak at 45 miles-per-hour.

Although forecasters say it’s too early to say exactly where it will make landfall, they are confident that Tropical Storm Karen will hit someone.

Whether it remains a Tropical Storm or a Hurricane, it will bring strong winds, heavy rain, and the threat of flooding.

Read more Hurricanes stories from the Miami Herald

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