FEMA employees sent back to work as Karen approaches the U.S.

The tropical storm is expected to reach the northern Gulf Coast this weekend

By Lindsay Abrams

Published October 4, 2013 12:27PM (EDT)

The Gulf Coast is preparing for Tropical Storm Karen, the first named storm to hit the U.S. this season. In preparation for the storm, which has the potential to become a weak hurricane, the White House announced that some employees with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are being recalled from furlough. (Nonessential employees at offshore oil rigs, on the other hand, have been sent home.)

The storm is set to hit near the tail end of hurricane season -- which usually peaks in September, but has been relatively quiet this year. The Associated Press reports:

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said early Friday that Karen was about 295 miles (470 kilometers) south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).

The storm's maximum sustained winds decreased slightly to 60 mph (95 kph) with the U.S. National Hurricane Center saying little change in strength was expected Friday. But forecasters said some strengthening was possible Saturday, when the storm's center would be near the coast.

A meteorologist told NBC News that a hurricane is unlikely, but heavy rains are expected to cause flooding.

Over half of the employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also on leave during the shutdown, but fortunately, the people in charge of monitoring tropical storms and hurricanes are still on the job. However, Climate Central raises the possibility that a lengthy shutdown could threaten our weather and climate infrastructure: According to the NOAA, anything longer than one to two weeks would deplete the funds needed to set up new satellites that let us know this kind of thing is coming.

Lindsay Abrams

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Fema Government Shutdown Hurricanes National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration U.s. Gulf Coast