by Kayla Castille
CNHI News Service
— Hurricane watches were issued along the coasts of four states Thursday as Tropical Storm Karen moved into the Gulf of Mexico, where forecasters say it may strengthen before making landfall Saturday.
Along the Gulf, coastal communities well-versed in tropical weather began early preparations for Karen, the 11th named storm of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season.
As of 1 p.m. Thursday, hurricane watches were in effect from Grand Isle, La., across the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama to Indian Pass, Fla., indicating hurricane-like conditions are possible within the next 48 hours. An additional tropical storm watch was issued for inland parts of Louisiana, including the New Orleans metro area.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has to begun to recall furloughed employees to prepare for Karen, according to USA Today.
Though still just a tropical storm -- with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph -- Karen may strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center. Parts of the Gulf Coast will begin experiencing high winds and rain as early as Friday afternoon.
But Karen is not expected to be a large storm, and it will shrink as it makes landfall, forecasters say. Tropical storm force winds extend 140 miles from the center of the system.
"That area of tropical storm force winds shrinks as this system would move in toward Pensacola," said Weather Nation meteorologist Rob Koch.
As of Thursday afternoon, Karen was located off the Yucatan peninsula, moving north-northwest near 12 mph. It was expected to turn north and slow down somewhat over the next 48 hours, according to the NHC.