Tropical Storm Karen approaches the Gulf Coast while the federal government is in a shutdown. While the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting that Tropical Storm Karen thankfully won’t become a hurricane (if so, she won’t be one for very long before weakening), she is still a powerful tropical system likely to cause damage to the Gulf region.
In light of this, certain federal agencies and departments within them are carrying on with their responsibility to public safety. Even though NOAA’s website is down, the NHC’s website is still up and being updated with information. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hurricane Liaison Team at the NHC was reactivated. NOAA and the NHC are currently operating with roughly 55 percent of their staff in place. On Thursday, FEMA started the recall process for furloughed employees. FEMA does have enough staff available in order to carry on relief efforts with the recent floods in Colorado, as well as the tornados that hit Oklahoma in May. Fortunately, the Disaster Relief Fund isn’t affected by the shutdown, so funding for relief efforts remains in place.
New Orleans is currently under a tropical storm watch (this is as of the NHC’s 2:00 PM EST advisory). This means that tropical storm conditions are expected in New Orleans within the next 48 hours. A hurricane watch is still in effect from Grand Isle, Lousiana, to Destin, Florida, though it’s likely that this will be changed to a tropical storm watch in the next advisory. Right now, it’s possible for Tropical Storm Karen to make landfall anywhere from New Orleans to Panama City, Florida, located in the Panhandle.