Tropical Storm Karen formed Thursday morning in the Gulf of Mexico, prompting a Hurricane Watch for the Florida Panhandle from Indian Pass, Gulf County, westward along the Gulf Coast to Louisiana.

Tropical models show Karen will trek north toward the Louisiana-Alabama coast over the next few days before turning toward the Panhandle.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency for Karen. A tropical storm warning has been issued for a portion of southeastern Louisiana.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for 18 counties in Florida.

Also, FEMA workers who were furloughed for the government shutdown have been called back to prepare for the storm.


Tropical Storm Karen Advisory

11 p.m. update -- Karen expected to move slowly northward over the central Gulf of Mexico on Friday.

Watches and Warnings

Changes with this advisory:


A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:
* Grand Isle, La. to west of Destin, Florida in the Panhandle.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical storm force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:
*Grand Isle, Louisiana to the mouth of the Pearl River. This does not include metropolitan New Orleans, Lake Maurepas or Lake Pontchartrain.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:
* West of Grand Isle to east of Morgan City, La.
* Metropolitan New Orleans
* Lake Maurepas
* Lake Pontchartrain
* Destin to Indian Pass FLorida

A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.

Discussion and 48-hour outlook

Tropical Storm Karen has been extensively investigated by Air Force and NOAA hurricane hunter planes this evening.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the center of Tropical Storm Karen was located by Air Force reserve and NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft near latitude 24.2 north, longitude 89.0 west.

Karen is moving toward the north-northwest near 10 mph. A turn toward the north with a decrease in forward speed is expected on Friday with a gradual turn to the northeast on Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Karen is expected to be near the coast within the tropical storm warning area on Saturday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 65 mph, with higher gusts. Some slight strengthening is possible during the next day or two, and Karen could be near hurricane strength late Friday and early Saturday.

Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles mainly to the north and east of the center.

The estimated minimum central pressure measured by both hurricane hunter planes was 999 mb, or 29.50 inches.

Hazards affecting land

Wind -- Hurricane conditions are possible within portions of the Hurricane Watch area on Saturday. Tropical storm conditions are expected within portions of the tropical storm warning area by Friday night or Saturday morning.

Storm Surge -- The combination of storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters. The water could reach the following heights above ground if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide:

* Mouth of the Mississippi River to Mobile Bay, 2 to 4 feet
* East of Mobile Bay to west of Apalachee Bay, 1 to 2 feet
* Apalachee Bay, 2 to 4 feet
* South of Apalachee Bay to Tampa Bay, 1 to 2 feet

The highest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the east of where landfall occurs, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves. Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances.

Rainfall -- Karen is expected to produce rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches over portions of the central and eastern Gulf Coast through Sunday night, mainly near and to the right of the path of the center. Isolated storm total amounts of 12 inches are possible. Additional rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches are possible over portions of western Cuba and the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula.

Next advisory

Complete advisory: 5 a.m.