Wednesday night there was no official advisory. By Thursday morning at 9am, Tropical Storm Karen had formed with winds of 60 mph. Twenty-four hours later now, Karen is struggling to survive amidst a powerful westerly wind. Needless to say, one should use caution when looking to the future with Karen. Multiple weather features will play into a very complicated forecast for the Tropical Storm as it approaches the U.S. coastline this weekend.
- Storm is struggling today, could strengthen again some on Saturday
- A sharp right turn to the northeast (or east) is possible over the weekend
- Impact to Florida hinges upon where and when this turn to the east occurs
Westerly winds aloft are very strong and have pushed most of the thunderstorm activity well away from the center of circulation. As a result, Karen has weakened and as of 11am, had winds of 50 mph. The storm was moving to the north-northwest at only 10 mph and had a minimum pressure of 1003 mb, coming up slightly in the past 12 hours. If the wind shear continues, Karen could weaken a bit more by Friday evening. Dry air is also factoring into the equation, suppressing the thunderstorms that do try to form near and west of the storm.
The National Hurricane Center is forecasting Karen to slowly move north toward the coastline of Louisiana on Saturday as a tropical storm with winds possibly increasing to 70 mph. A gradual turn to the northeast is then projected, taking the center of circulation near Mobile, Alabama or Pensacola, Florida upon landfall Sunday. Thereafter, the storm (or remnants of Karen) will accelerate northeast through the panhandle of Florida and southern Georgia. A track such as this would spare most of North Florida and the panhandle significant impacts from storm surge or damaging wind. At the present time, only Hurricane and Tropical Storm Watches are in effect for coastal areas of the panhandle near and west of Indian Pass, Florida.
Heavy rain has always been, and still is the biggest concern with Tropical Storm Karen. Forecast data currently suggests that 4 to 8 inches of rain could fall near and east of its eventual track, with locally higher amounts possible should the storm move slower than projected. Coastal flooding is also a possibility immediately along the coastline near and east of the storm track. Residents in low-lying areas, both along the coast, and near small creeks and streams should prepare now for potential flooding due to Karen’s passage this weekend.
Residents of Florida further east are not entirely in the clear. A sudden shift to the east in Karen’s track is still indicated by some forecast guidance, and confidence is still rather low on the eventual outcome for much of Florida north of the I-4 corridor. A slower-moving storm that lingers over water and moves further southeast than current projections could bring gusty winds and heavy rain to a larger portion of the state Sunday and Monday. While the chances of this occurring are rather low at this time, all Floridians north or the I-4 corridor and especially near the Nature Coast should stay informed of the latest forecast information regarding Tropical Storm Karen throughout the weekend.