Tropical Storm Karen forms in the Gulf (updated)
By Preston Gill
Tropical Storm Karen has a chance to become a hurricane before landfall on Saturday and landfall projections indicate southeast Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama as the most likely location, the National Weather Service said in a 2:30 p.m. update from the Lake Charles office.
Local weather due to Karen will be primarily higher tides along the coast. A coastal flood advisory is in effect for Cameron, Vermilion, Iberia, and St. Mary Parishes for tides running 1.0 to 1.5 feet above normal through Saturday. Winds near the coast could gust in the 20 to 30 mph range also Friday and Saturday, the update said.
This afternoon, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency for the state as a result of Karen. The declaration gives the Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness ability to respond appropriately to needs of the state that arise from the hurricane.
Governmental agencies throughout the parish began consulting and went into preparedness mode when the National Weather Service said early today Tropical Storm Karen could bring gale force winds to the parish by the weekend.
Parish President Paul Naquin said in his 24 years of public service, the parish is in its best position ever to weather a storm. He does not expect any mandatory evacuations nor the need to open any shelters.
“If the storm becomes a category 1 or 2 hurricane we will ask low lying areas to move out but not a mandatory evacuation. We are not expecting a need for shelters,” Naquin said.
Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness director Duvall Arthur Jr. said the minimal tidal surge expected might put water in low lying areas around Burns Point and Cypremort Point but there would be no noticeable effects around Morgan City from the tidal surge.
Naquin said the parish is protected from the storm surges.
“The barge we have at the Franklin Canal for flood protection in case of a surge could be utilized within 45 minutes,” Naquin said. “The Hanson Canal is already closed with sheet pilings so water can’t come in from the Bayou Teche or the Intercoastal. We are well prepared.”
Arthur said that while parish crews are ready and on standby, it looks like Karen will not pose significant problems.
“We will probably get 30 mph winds and a good bit of rain, but it looks like the storm will not be a bad one for St. Mary Parish,” Arthur said. “Most of the slides and maps are showing the storm going toward Mobile Bay and the Florida panhandle.”
Henry LaGrange, parish chief administrative officer, said parish officials are watching the storm closely and are making interim preparations like topping off fuel tanks and making sure vulnerable equipment is protected or ready to be moved.
“We are watching the storm closely. By tomorrow we may have more definitive answers,” LaGrange said.
First-term Morgan City Mayor Frank Grizzaffi said personnel and resources ready for the first weather-related storm of his administration.
“We will still stay vigilant and make decisions as information becomes available,” Grizzaffi said. “This morning we reached out to department heads by memo to put them on the ready and told them to go over hurricane preparedness procedures.”
Patterson Mayor Rodney Grogan said workers in his city are inspecting canals and drainage areas for tall grass and trash to make sure those will not be problems if there are heavy rains.
“We will stay in touch with parish officials and have things in place if stand bagging becomes needed,” Grogan said. “If that is the case we will let the public know when and where they are available.”
Berwick chief administrative officer Newell Slaughter said the town has emergency crews on standby, but they are not expecting to have to use them.
“We will be ready if they are needed,” Slaughter said.
As of Thursday afternoon the Tour de Teche activities are still planned as scheduled, Slaughter said.
Naquin said residents should not lower their guard in expectation of the storm not being a major one.
“We are asking everybody to have a plan in place for water, food and meds; to have a three or four days supply,” Naquin said.
A cold front will move across the region Saturday night, helping bring in cooler and drier air for the first part of next week. Monday and Tuesday morning should see low temperatures in the 50s, and highs in the lower 80s, the NWS update said.