MIAMI (AP) -- The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch from Louisiana to Florida on Thursday morning after Tropical Storm Karen formed in the Gulf of Mexico.
The hurricane watch was issued from Grand Isle, La., to Indian Pass, Fla. A tropical storm watch also was in effect for parts of the Louisiana coast west of Grand Isle, including the metro New Orleans area and Lake Pontchartrain.
As of the 1 p.m. Central update, hurricane hunters detected wind speeds around 65 mph.
The storm will likely make landfall along the northern Gulf Coast overnight Saturday into Sunday.
Forecasters are fairly confident about the storm’s track, but they don’t know how strong it will be when it makes landfall.
“The health of this system is not that good right now,” said KHOU 11 News Meteorologist Brooks Garner. “The fact that there are no thunderstorms to the west of the system indicates there’s a strong southwest shear, and that will act to limit the strengthening potential for the near term. If we start to see storms, then it could become much stronger.”
In Houston, we’ll see a few effects from Karen. Garner said we could have high surf with a rip current risk. We’ll also have gusty north winds. On Saturday, we’ll have an increased chance for rain as a cool front moves through. This cold front will help push Karen well east of Texas.
Meanwhile in Washington, The White House says the Federal Emergency Management Agency is recalling some furloughed workers to help prepare for the storm.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says President Barack Obama is being updated. He says Obama directed his team to ensure staffing and resources are available to respond to the storm.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been furloughed by to the partial government shutdown. It’s unclear how many FEMA workers are being brought back.
In New Orleans, The Army Corps of Engineers says it plans to close a storm-surge gate protecting the New Orleans. The Amy Corps says it would begin Thursday afternoon to close a gate designed to keep possible storm surge from Lake Borgne, east of the city, from entering the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal—known locally as the Industrial Canal—through the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. In 2005, flood wall breaches along the canal contributed to catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina.
Karen’s forecast track predicts a weekend landfall east of Louisiana. Still, officials say they were prepared for any changes.
Oil companies also prepared for the storm. Shell and BP said they were securing offshore rigs and evacuating non-essential workers.
Go here for an interactive tracking map of the Atlantic Ocean.