Tropical Storm Karen was downgraded to a depression and storm warnings were discontinued last night as the weather system churned in the Gulf of Mexico before heading toward landfall in northern Florida.
Karen’s sustained winds fell to 35 miles (55 kilometers) per hour as the storm sat about 120 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana, as of 11 p.m. New York time, the National Hurricane Center said in its final advisory.
“This storm is almost nonexistent at this point,” said Phil Vida, an operational meteorologist at MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “What’s left of it is not having much of its own steering power, and is expected to get pushed eastward with less intensity as a cold front approaches it.”
Chevron Corp. (CVX:US) began resuming offshore operations and a coastal Louisiana parish lifted a mandatory evacuation order as the storm’s threat lessened. Even so, gusty winds, heavy rains and flooding threaten the Gulf Coast.
About 48 percent of the Gulf’s natural-gas production and 62 percent of the oil output was closed because of the storm, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said today. In all, 271 platforms and 20 rigs were evacuated, accounting for 866,807 barrels a day of oil and about 1.8 billion cubic feet of gas.
Karen is the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30, and would be the second to hit the U.S. this year. Tropical Storm Andrea made landfall in northwestern Florida in June and then moved up the East Coast.
Strong winds out of the west “have driven dry air from the western Gulf of Mexico into Karen’s core, making it difficult for heavy thunderstorms to build on the west and south sides of Karen’s center of circulation,” Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, wrote in his blog.
“It’s really lost a lot of its punch,” Vida said by phone. “There will be some minor wind and surge, but small stuff, under 1 foot. It’s looking a little less threatening than it did even just 24 hours ago as far as rainfall is concerned.”
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