A tropical storm warning was posted for parts of southeastern Louisiana Thursday as Tropical Storm Karen strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico, forecasters said.
In its 8 p.m. EDT update, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Karen was 360 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. The storm was traveling north-northwest at 12 mph.
Tropical-storm-force winds extended as much as 140 miles from the storm's center.
A tropical storm warning was posted for Grand Isle, La., to the mouth of the Pearl River. Metropolitan New Orleans, Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain are not in the warning area.
A hurricane watch is in effect for Grand Isle to west of Destin, Fla., and a tropical storm watch was posted from Destin to Indian Pass, Fla. A tropical storm watch was also in effect from west of Grand Isle to east of Morgan City, La., metropolitan New Orleans, and lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain.
Karen was forecast to strengthen and be at or near hurricane strength late Friday and early Saturday. The storm was expected to lose forward speed and turn to the north during the next 48 hours.
Karen was expected to produce heavy rainfall over portions of western Cuba and the northern Yucatan Peninsula during the next few days.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said Thursday FEMA -- through its regional offices in Atlanta and Denton, Texas, is monitoring the storm and coordinating with officials in gulf coast states.
"Gulf coast residents in potentially impacted areas should take steps now to be prepared and follow the direction of local officials," Fugate said.
FEMA said it has begun to recall employees furloughed under the federal government shutdown, who it said are "necessary to serve functions of the agency that protect life and property as they prepare for potential landfall of Tropical Storm Karen."