UPDATE: 4 p.m Saturday.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Saturday afternoon that Karen has stalled. Winds had fallen to about 40 m.p.h, but the tropical storm is expected to move toward the northeast this evening, and speed up Sunday night and Monday. The center of the storm will move over southeaster Louisiana tonight and early Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center computer models. Karen is likely to pass near the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama on Sunday.
With its barely discernible eye far off to the west of its main body, Tropical Storm Karen is beginning to disperse as a significant threat as it moves northward through the Gulf toward the US mainland.
Forecasters began downgrading Tropical Storm Karen’s potential on Friday night. Charlotte, N.C., meteorologist Brad Panovich summed it up in a Tweet: “#Karen is toast.”
“Here at Weather Nerd … we don’t stand on ceremony, so I am hereby treating this storm as basically ‘dead until proven alive,’” agreed weather blogger Brendan Loy on PJ Media, signing off on his coverage late Friday night.
Originally forecast to potentially come ashore as a weak hurricane, Karen has been decimated by a bank of dry air and strong wind shear that has taken most of the oomph out of it. With its rotation separated from its main wall of moisture, the storm now stands no chance of beefing back up, meaning it will become more a major rain event as it lumbers ashore near Mobile, Ala., and pushes northeast through Georgia and the Carolinas.
But forecasters reminded Americans living in Karen’s path to not let their guard down.
Limited chance of tornadoes and a more robust chance of flash flooding still exist in several key zones as the storm could drop in excess of 3 inches of rain in the course of a day. Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for Morgan City, La., all the way to the mouth of the Pearl River on the Mississippi line, and a tropical storm watch is in effect from downtown New Orleans to Indian Pass, Fla.
Moreover, state of emergencies remained in place in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency recalled workers furloughed by the partial government shutdown.
By many accounts, coastal residents continued to prepare for the worst. Officials in Plaquemines Parish, inundated last year by hurricane Isaac, ordered evacuations, as did frequently storm-struck Grand Isle.
For Americans watching Karen’s approach, forecasters said the strongest rains and winds will remain on the storm’s eastern shoulder, with weather to the West of the storm remaining fair. An onrushing cold front will mean Karen will “zoom away really quickly” from the coast, thus reducing flooding risks, National Weather Service meteorologist Shawn O’Neil told the Times Picayune in New Orleans.