Tropical Storm Karen showed signs of weakening Friday night, but still threatened the Gulf Coast with heavy rains and storm surge as it staggered toward shore.
The storm was expected to drift north, then curl to the northeast and pick up speed before nearing land late tonight.
Most forecast models had the center coming ashore somewhere between Louisiana and the eastern Florida Panhandle. On Friday night, Karen was about 235 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River with maximum sustained winds of about 45 mph.
The National Hurricane Center ceased all hurricane watches on Friday, but tropical storm watches and warnings remained in effect from Louisiana to the Panhandle.
The Tampa Bay area may get some rain late Sunday or Monday from Karen, but today should be dry with a high near 91. Rain chances Sunday and Monday are about 40 percent, according to Bay News 9.
A cold front will lift Karen out of North Florida early next week, then will settle into the rest of the state. The weather next week will be drier and slightly cooler — with afternoon highs in the mid to high 80s and overnight lows in the high 60s, according to Bay News 9.
Until then, the Gulf Coast will contend with the 11th named storm of the season and only the second to threaten the United States — the first since Tropical Storm Andrea hit Florida in June.
Gov. Rick Scott said a team of about three dozen people from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was en route to Tallahassee on Friday. A group of 20 National Guardsmen have already been activated.
FEMA and the Interior Department recalled workers, furloughed because of the government shutdown, to help state and local agencies.
Scott, who declared a state of emergency for 18 North Florida counties, said 2-4 feet of storm surge and up to 10 inches of rain are expected in the Panhandle.
Some evacuations were ordered in Louisiana, and traffic at the mouth of the Mississippi River was stopped Friday morning in advance of the storm.