Gulf Coast Prepares for Tropical Storm Karen Amid Government Shutdown
By Mel Fabrikant Friday, October 04, 2013, 04:38 PM EDT
AccuWeather.com reports as Tropical Storm Karen eyes the Gulf coast, threatening to unleash flooding rainfall, local emergency management agencies are scrambling to finish last-minute preparations in the midst of a government shutdown.
The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has promised to maintain all personnel and websites which are critical to protecting lives and property.
Federal employees which have been deemed non-essential have not reported to work since Oct. 1, leaving the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and local National Weather Service forecasting offices in the path of Karen responsible for issuing all storm-related information.
As the tropical storm takes aim at the southern U.S., readying for a late-weekend landfall, a near-zero-visibility blizzard is simultaneously pummeling the Plains and a severe weather outbreak capable of producing strong tornadoes is developing over the Central states.
Concerns are mounting over what emergency response will be available should storms result in a disaster for any area, as the shutdown did not exclude the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Though non-essential FEMA employees were furloughed on Tuesday, the agency maintains that it is monitoring the conditions of Tropical Storm Karen through its regional offices in Atlanta, Ga., and Denton, Texas, and will keep in close coordination with coastal officials.
"Gulf Coast residents in potentially impacted areas should take steps now to be prepared and follow the direction of local officials," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said. "FEMA will continue to support our state and local partners as they prepare for any potential impacts."
The agency has since re-activated the Hurricane Liaison Team to aid in the responsibility of warning against Karen.
As of midday Friday, the projected path of the storm threatened the possibility of two landfalls occurring, one over southeastern Louisiana and one between southern Mississippi to the western part of the Florida Panhandle.
Flooding rainfall is expected where landfall is made, in addition to wind gusts as high as 65 miles per hour, according to AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. Gusts at this speed can result in property damage, as well as downed trees and power lines.
Local emergency management officials within those regions are bracing themselves for an impact.
By Jillian MacMath, Staff Writer for AccuWeather.com