MIAMI -- As communities along the central Gulf Coast stocked up on supplies and prepared for Tropical Storm Karen Friday night, the National Hurricane Center discontinued a hurricane watch.
A tropical storm watch was issued in its place.
Karen still threatens a stretch of U.S. coast from Louisiana to the Panhandle with strong winds and heavy rain. The storm is expected to make landfall over the weekend.
The storm has become disorganized and hurricane watches have been discontinued, the National Hurricane Center said during its Friday afternoon advisory.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service in West Miami-Dade County have had an unusually hard time
predicting where Karen will strike because an approaching cold front will determine when and how far the storm will turn east.
Even though the storm's sustained wind speeds dropped to 50 mph Friday, the National Hurricane Center still believes it poses a threat. Strong winds may blow through the warning area as early as Saturday afternoon. A combination of storm surge, heavy rain and a high tide could lead to flooding.
Little change is expected Saturday but the storm may strengthen Sunday morning.
In South Florida, heavy rain caused in part by Karen caused significant flooding Wednesday. The worst is over in Miami-Dade and Broward counties as the weekend forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with the chance of thunderstorms.
State and federal agencies spent the end of the week preparing for the storm.
The governors of Alabama, Florida and Louisiana all declared a state of emergency. In Florida, it was for 18 Panhandle counties.
In Washington, during the third day of the government shutdown, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recalled furloughed workers to help prepare for Karen. On Friday, FEMA told people in the storm's path to prepare for possible power outages.
Florida National Guard officials worried that the shutdown would affect their ability to be ready for storm preparation or recovery. About half of its 2,000 full-time federal employees were furloughed.
Friday evening, Gov. Rick Scott held a news conference to assure Floridians that the shutdown would not affect how the state prepares for the storm.
"We have the best National Guard in the country," he said from Tallahassee.
Scott, who canceled a scheduled event in Orlando because of the potential threat Karen poses to Florida, will monitor the storm from the capital and travel to wherever he is needed.
Forecasters believe the Panhandle could see flooding and storm surge of up to four feet over the weekend.
Friday night, Tropical Storm Karen was 235 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving at seven mph with sustained winds of 50 mph, with thunderstorms in the northern and eastern parts of the storm.
Depending on when the storm curves east, Karen could strike Louisiana's southeast coast as early as Saturday morning. The mayor of Grand Isle Louisiana ordered a mandatory evacuation Friday afternoon.
Karen also turn could turn as far east as the Florida Panhandle, sending storm surge as far as Apalachee Bay.
The University of Arkansas Razorbacks prepared for the worst for their game in Gainesville Saturday.
Coach Bret Bielema said his team's equipment truck is fully packed with gear for nearly every possible kind of weather.
Although forecasters say it's too early to say exactly where it will make landfall, they are confident that Tropical Storm Karen will hit.
Whether it remains a Tropical Storm or becomes a hurricane, it will bring strong winds, heavy rain, and the threat of flooding.