Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 18 North Florida counties on Thursday as Tropical Storm Karen barreled toward the Gulf Coast.
Forecasters issued hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings that stretched from Louisiana to the eastern Florida Panhandle.
Karen poses no real threat to the Tampa Bay area, though it will increase rain chances to about 50 percent on Sunday, according to Bay News 9.
Rain chances today and Saturday will be only 10 to 20 percent.
Karen, which was in the southern Gulf of Mexico on Thursday night moving at about 12 mph, was expected to move north and slow down over the next day or two. Forecasters said it appeared likely to remain a tropical storm or perhaps become a weak Category 1 hurricane.
It was packing sustained winds of 65 mph on Thursday night.
Some forecast models have the storm making a turn to the east at some point and spinning into the Florida Panhandle, while others have it staying to the west of the state.
Karen is expected to dump up to a foot of rain in some areas and could cause a storm surge of up to 4 feet.
Residents of the Gulf Coast could begin feeling tropical force winds as early as tonight, the National Hurricane Center reported.
The hurricane center has not escaped the effects of Tuesday's government shutdown. Forecasters remain on staff, but all nonessential personnel have been furloughed.
Hurricane season continues through Nov. 30.