Tropical Storm Karen approaching Gulf Coast


Public officials throughout the Southeast are warning residents to exercise caution as Tropical Storm Karen approaches the coast. According to the National Hurricane Center, the system could be near hurricane strength when it makes landfall.

Some areas remained under a hurricane watch going into the weekend and the White House has announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has recalled some of the workers who had been furloughed as a result of the government shutdown.

“Now is the time for people to review their emergency plans in case conditions worsen,” Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said in a statement.

In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency and activated 650 National Guard troops to prepare for any emergency response or recovery activities that may be necessary. In a press release, Jindal advised residents to “get a game plan now and stay alert by monitoring local weather conditions in their area.”

Risk of flooding remains substantial

Although Karen had weakened for several days, storm-force winds have continued extending outward from the center of the system, according to an update issued on Friday morning by AccuWeather. Sensors mounted on buoys located more than 100 miles from the storm’s center were reportedly detecting gusts that exceeded 50 miles per hour.

Although forecasters say they believe it is unlikely that Karen will begin rapidly gaining strength as it approaches land, the storm could still cause significant problems for any companies that have large oil storage tanks or other assets that could give rise to environmental liabilities in the event of a sustained downpour or flash flood.

“Tropical storm force winds will be possible on Saturday night but will be more likely on Sunday as the system moves onshore,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski reported. “Once inland, it will spin down and become a big rainmaker for the Southeast and eastern U.S. Sunday into early next week.”

This anticipated period of heavy rainfall could be exactly what causes an oil or chemical spill at an industrial, commercial or agricultural facility in the region, which means companies need to be prepared to implement comprehensive Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans.

Meteorologists at AccuWeather’s Atlantic Hurricane & Tropical Storm Center have also predicted that a small number of “isolated tornadoes” could emerge in the outer bands of rain surrounding Karen, while properties located on the coast could be affected by rough sea conditions.

Storm activity could pick up in remainder of 2013

Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen, who serves as a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center, told reporters that the window of opportunity for hurricane formation remains open.

“Think of the season as having just passed halftime,” Feltgen said. “A lot can happen in the second half, and be very different than the first half.”

A recent report from researchers at Stanford University reinforces Feltgen’s warnings. Predictive models developed at Stanford indicate that not only will the United States be hit with a growing number of “super storms” each year, but these systems may emerge more frequently in the fall and winter.

By 2070, the Stanford scientists expect the eastern U.S. to be struck by 40 percent more severe thunderstorms. This risk is expected to increase less dramatically in other parts of the country.

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