NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tropical Storm Karen was poised to become the first named storm to hit the U.S. during what had been a relatively quiet hurricane season.
Karen was forecast to lash the northern Gulf Coast over the weekend as a weak hurricane or tropical storm. A hurricane watch was in effect from Grand Isle, La., to west of Destin, Fla. A tropical storm warning was issued for the Louisiana coast from Grand Isle to the mouth of the Pearl River, including the New Orleans area.
From a tiny, vulnerable island off the Louisiana coast to the beaches of the Florida Panhandle, Gulf Coast residents prepared Thursday for a possible hit from the storm.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Friday morning that Karen was about 275 miles (445 kilometers) south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
The storm's maximum sustained winds were near 60 mph (95 kph) with the National Hurricane Center saying little change in strength was expected Friday. But forecasters said some strengthening was possible Saturday, when the storm's center would be near the coast.
In Alabama, safety workers Thursday hoisted double red flags at Gulf Shores because of treacherous rip currents ahead of the storm.
In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency, urging residents to prepare. State Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham said local schools will decide whether to play football games. He said the southern part of the state could have tropical storm-force winds by late Friday.
"I know that Friday night football in the South is a big thing, but I don't think anybody wants to risk a life because of the potential winds," Latham said.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also declared a state of emergency, citing the possibility of high winds, heavy rain and tides. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared an emergency for 18 counties.