* Storm is no longer expected to become a hurricane
* Karen halts half of oil output in U.S. Gulf
By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS, Oct 4 Authorities issued mandatory
evacuation orders for low-lying areas south of New Orleans on
Friday as a weakened Tropical Storm Karen closed in on the
Louisiana coast after disrupting U.S. energy output in the Gulf
Karen's top winds were holding at 50 mph (85 kph), down from
65 mph (105 kph) a day earlier, and National Hurricane Center
forecasters in Miami said the storm was expected to strengthen
somewhat but remain a tropical storm.
Oil output in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico had been cut in half
as oil and gas firms shut platforms and evacuated some workers
in preparation for the storm. The Gulf accounts for about 19
percent of U.S. oil production and 6 percent of natural gas
The mayor of Grand Isle, Louisiana, clamped a mandatory
evacuation on the popular vacation and fishing destination on a
barrier island south of New Orleans. Evacuations were also
ordered in Lafourche Parish in the south, and residents in much
of Plaquemines Parish, southeast of New Orleans, were told to be
out of their homes before nightfall.
The Sand Dollar Motel and Marina on Grand Isle was a frenzy
of activity on Friday as boaters scrambled to get their vessels
to higher ground and marina employees secured the premises.
"It's already pouring here and the wind is real strong,"
said marina owner Susan Gaspard, who added that squalls had been
hitting all morning.
Karen's projected path shifted slightly westward and it was
expected to move ashore over Louisiana on Saturday night and
into Mississippi and then Alabama on Sunday.
By late Friday afternoon, the storm was centered about 235
miles (375 km) south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi
River. It was moving north-northwest but was forecast to turn to
the northeast as it crossed the coast.
At the Port of New Orleans, cargo operations continued
normally but the harbor pilots who guide ships through the mouth
of the Mississippi had ceased operations.
"No ships are coming in or out the mouth of the river," said
port spokesman Matt Gresham.
Carnival Cruise Line officials announced that two ships that
had been due to arrive in New Orleans over the weekend, the
Carnival Elation and Carnival Conquest, could be delayed until
Monday. Guests onboard were being kept apprised and the ships
were sailing at a safe and comfortable distance from the storm,
the company said.
The governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama
declared states of emergency to speed storm preparations and the
Federal Emergency Management Agency recalled some furloughed
workers to assist.
The storm was expected to dump up to 6 inches (15 cm) of
rain in its path and to push a surge of seawater over the
shoreline, the hurricane center said.
"The tide's already high, so we know we will get water.
We're just trying to put everything up as high as we can," said
Gaspard on Grand Isle.
Ralph Atkins, owner of Southern Fish & Oyster Co on a
downtown dock in Mobile, Alabama, said he expected to see a
"good squall" from Karen but nothing he couldn't deal with.
"Our big trouble is water. Water can build up and make it
bad," Atkins said. "It's just another day in the fish business.
Nature just needs to take a bath every now and then," he added.
At Alabama's Grand Mariner Marina on Dog River and Mobile
Bay, boaters were tying down the larger vessels with double
ropes and putting the smaller ones on trailers to haul them up
the river to sheltered coves.
"It's like New York City at lunch time here. We are really
busy," said marina manager Steve Penny. "We are doing everything
we can to make room for 4 to 6 feet of water. Anything we can
move, we get out."
Marina workers were adding fuel to their 8,000-gallon
(30,280-liter) tanks to weigh them down and keep them from
A hurricane watch for the coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana,
to Destin, Florida was dropped. Tropical storm watches and
warnings were still in effect in other areas including
metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. Tropical storms
carry winds of 39 mph to 73 mph (63 kph to 118 kph).