Tropical Storm Karen has formed, the National Hurricane Center reported Thursday morning, becoming the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Severe weather alerts were issued for Louisiana and Florida Thursday as Tropical Storm Karen strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico, weather forecasters said.
Preparations began Thursday along the central Gulf Coast as TS Karen threatened to become the first named tropical system to threaten the United States this year.
As of 11 a.m. ET, the storm had winds of 65 mph. It was located about 485 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving north-northwest at 12 mph.
Karen was expected to produce heavy rainfall over portions of western Cuba and the northern Yucatan Peninsula during the next few days.
Karen could become a hurricane before making landfall, reports AccuWeather. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 74 mph.
The storm should make landfall somewhere along the Gulf Coast by Saturday night.
While meteorologists said it was too soon to predict the storm’s ultimate intensity, they said it could weaken a bit as it approaches the coast over the weekend.
“Our forecast calls for it to be right around the border of a hurricane and a tropical storm,” said David Zelinsky, a hurricane center meteorologist.
Weather a weak hurricane or strong tropical storm, Karen’s effects are expected to be largely the same: heavy rain and the potential for similar storm surge.
Oil giant BP said it has begun securing offshore rigs and evacuating non-essential workers from its four company-operated production platforms in Karen’s projected path.
Other oil companies were expected to take similar action.
Rainfall totals of from 4 to 8 inches can be expected to the east of where the storm makes landfall, reports meteorologist Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground. Some minor coastal flooding is also possible.
More links on Tropical Storms
More links on Hurricanes