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Tropical Storm Karen stalls, landfall expected tonight

Tropical Storm Karen (2013)Hurricane Isaac (2012)National Weather ServiceHurricane Katrina (2005)Southern U.S. Storms (2011)

After churning through the Gulf of Mexico for the last three days, Tropical Storm Karen stalled off the coast of Louisiana on Saturday afternoon after it weakened overnight.

The National Weather Service expects the storm to resume its path toward the Gulf Coast on Saturday with the eye passing over southeastern Louisiana in the evening.

Reports call for Karen to bring Louisiana 1 to 2 inches of rain -- down from estimates of 3 to 5 inches -- along with winds of up to 40 mph.

By Sunday, a weakened Karen will probably be downgraded to a tropical depression as it pivots east toward Mississippi and Alabama on Sunday night.

"The latest storm projections are encouraging, but we're not out of the woods yet," said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Saturday morning after the latest forecast was released.

"As we have all seen many, many times, these storms are unpredictable," Landrieu said during a televised news conference. "They have minds of their own."

On Thursday and Friday, state and local officials were cautious in preparing for the storm. Coastal parishes and municipalities declared a state of emergency Friday in anticipation of a storm with more severe winds and heavier rainfall. Cruise ships bound for New Orleans pushed back their arrival by two days until Monday, and boat traffic at the Mississippi River's mouth was halted Friday.

Low-lying Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, issued a mandatory evacuation order Friday and opened a shelter to house residents. The parish sustained major damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

"We get a lot of water in the area, and I didn't want to take the chance of staying down there and being flooded out, so I came up here to be safe," Plaquemines Parish resident Yasmeen Sanders told New Orleans-based WWL-TV.

But by Saturday, the mandatory evacuation order in the parish was downgraded to voluntary, and Landrieu said the New Orleans airport remained fully operational.

A tropical storm warning remained in effect in coastal areas around southeastern Louisiana, while a storm watch covered Mississippi, Alabama and the western half of Florida's panhandle.

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Twitter: @MattHjourno

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Tropical Storm Karen (2013)Hurricane Isaac (2012)National Weather ServiceHurricane Katrina (2005)Southern U.S. Storms (2011)
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