Mayor Landrieu urges vigilance as weakened Tropical Storm Karen approaches

Tropical Storm Karen weakened “significantly” overnight, but New Orleans remains in a state of emergency as the system continues its track toward the Louisiana coast, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Saturday.

“The latest storm projections are encouraging, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Landrieu said. “As we’ve all seen many, many times, these storms are unpredictable. They have minds of their own.”

While the sun was out and a comfortable breeze blew, the National Weather Service said residents in the metro area should expect to experience 20 to 30 mph winds, with gusts of 35 to 40 mph, and 1 to 2 inches of rain beginning just after midnight Sunday until about 9 a.m.

Residents outside of the levee protection system should expect half-foot to 1-foot tides, Landrieu said.

While the tropical storm has lost strength, Landrieu urged residents and businesses to remain vigilant until it passes.

The National Hurricane Center said Karen’s maximum sustained winds were down to 40 mph and that i was moving north at 10 mph. The storm is forecast to slow down later Saturday before it turns toward the northeast.

Karen is expected to make landfall on Sunday night near the coast of Missippi and Alabama and weaken to a tropical depression.

All 24 of the Sewerage & Water Board’s drainage pumps are operational, and the Army Corps of Engineers is monitoring water levels in Lake Pontchartrain, Landrieu said.

Meanwhile, other city agencies are operating as usual. No changes are expected to any RTA streetcar or bud schedules unless the weather becomes too severe, Landrieu said.

Entergy has pre-positioned restoration crews in case power is cut for customers, said Charles Rice, president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans.

The Army Corp of Engineers has closed storm surge gates on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal at Lake Borgne and Industrial Canal to help prevent any water from surging into areas such as New Orleans East, Gentilly, the 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish.

“This is a city that is totally on alert,” said City Council President Jackie Clarkson.

Some cruise ships that were to dock at the Port of New Orleans on Saturday would instead arrive on Monday. Louis Armstrong International Airport has not changed any operations.

As the day progresses, Landrieu said, residents could be lulled into a false sense of security because of the lack of any noticeable effects from tropical weather. But, he noted, problems can often come after the storm or when people let down their guard.

“I myself have witnessed in the last day and a half a (higher) level of anxiety.” Landrieu said. “I would ask everybody just to slow their roll for the next 24 to 36 hours. It’s gonna be OK.”