NEW ORLEANS -- Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared a state of emergency and mobilized city departments to prepare for severe weather in New Orleans.
Tropical Storm Karen is now expected to make landfall between Louisiana and Florida as early as Saturday.
"We have been working hard since yesterday and around the clock to make sure that our plans are in place and to take all the necessary precautions," said Landrieu. "We're going to begin to see some impact tomorrow and potentially, throughout the weekend. The National Weather Service says we should expect up to 5 inches of rain through Sunday, 25-35 mile per hour sustained winds with higher gusts at potentially 35 to 45 miles per hour."
Landrieu strongly encouraged residents who live outside the city's levee protection system or in low-lying areas - including Venetian Isles, Fort Pike, Irish Bayou and Lake Catherine - to be prepared for elevated tidal surge of 1 to 3 feet and impassable roadways.
"We do not expect it to get in the homes, but we've seen this before," said Landrieu.
Landrieu said while Karen's current track is generally favorable for New Orleans, it can change quickly.
The city's 24 drainage pumping stations are manned and operational.
The city's Emergency Operation Center is now activated for the duration of the storm.
First responders and public works crews are on standby.
NOPD Deputy Superintendent Darryl Albert warns drivers there is a law against driving more than 5 miles per hour, down flooded streets.
"Driving through a flood prone area is not a good thing," said Albert. "We will be out aggressively enforcing that (law) and issuing citations to those in violation."
Neighbors can now park on city neutral grounds if their streets are prone to flooding. Parking on neutral grounds where streetcars roll is prohibited.
The Army Corps of Engineers closed some flood control structures and is prepared to close additional flood gates if needed.
"The storm risk reduction system is ready and even stronger than it was a year ago during Hurricane Isaac," said Col. Rick Hansen, Army Corps commander in New Orleans.
Friday afternoon, there was a stiff breeze and choppy seas on Lake Pontchartrain. The U.S. Coast Guard issued a notice to boaters.
"There's no need to be out in a tropical storm. The Coast Guard may not be able to pick you up during the course of this storm and neither will other public safety agencies, so get off the water now," said Captain Pete Gautier.
In advance of the weather, the city is asking residents to take the following precautions:
- Prepare to shelter in place with food, water, and medications needed in the event of loss of water and/ or power.
- Clean or clear gutters and catch basins near your home.
- Bring in or secure any loose objects outside.
- Check on your neighbors and the elderly to make sure they are prepared.
- Regular trash pickup will occur Saturday. Once trash is picked up, residents should secure trash cans.
- Board up your windows or hatch down shutters.