Tropical Storm Karen continues move towards US northern Gulf Coast
BRAITHWAITE, Louisiana (AP) - Tropical Storm Karen continued to chug toward the United States Gulf Coast on Saturday, threatening to bring heavy winds and high rains, despite a general weakening of the storm. Officials still urged residents to be vigilant, with heavy rains and high winds a possibility, even as an evacuation order was scaled back in one of Louisiana's most vulnerable areas.
Officials in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, said the evacuation-order change from mandatory to voluntary would take effect at noon on Saturday. More than 80 evacuees from the area, at the state's south-eastern tip, had taken refuge at a public shelter.
The National Hurricane Centre reported in the morning that Karen's maximum sustained winds had dropped to 64 kmh, making it a weak tropical storm. It was moving north at 16 kmh, and centre forecasters said in their advisory that they expect Karen to decrease in speed later on Saturday and turn towards the north-east.
"This is certainly something that you can remain safe in - it's a lot weaker than it was, no chance of it becoming a hurricane - as long as you follow advice from local officials," Mr Rick Knabb, the director of the National Hurricane Centre, said.