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(NEW YORK) — Data from an Air Force reserve hurricane hunter aircraft showed Thursday morning that the area of low pressure over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico formed into a tropical storm.


Tropical Storm Karen formed at about 8 a.m. and forecasts show Karen could strengthen into a hurricane on Friday. Wind gusts could reach 75 to 90 mph.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency has begun to recall workers currently furloughed because of the government shutdown to help prepare for Tropical Storm Karen, the White House announced on Thursday.


“Based on applicable legal requirements and consistent with its contingency plan, FEMA has begun to recall currently furloughed employees necessary to serve functions of the agency to protect life and property as they prepare for potential landfall for Tropical Storm Karen,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced at his daily briefing.


It’s unclear how many FEMA employees are being called into work. Most FEMA employees — 11,468 of the 14,729 at the agency — were declared “excepted” and were supposed to stay at work during the government shutdown, according to the Department of Homeland Security contingency plan.


“This morning FEMA reactivated the hurricane liaison team that is embedded with the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The president directed his team to ensure that federal resources and personnel needed to support state and local preparation efforts are available and on the job,” Carney said.


As of Thursday afternoon, winds within the storm had been recorded at 65 mph. Winds would be considered hurricane category one at 74 mph.


The storm, located about 400 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River at 2 p.m. on Thursday, is expected to make landfall somewhere between Gulf Shores, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla. on Saturday.


Experts expect a storm surge of up to four feet in some areas. After landfall, the storm is expected to lose tropical characteristics but retain high rates of rainfall. ABC News meteorologist Max Golembo warns that flooding is possible from the Tennessee Valley to the Northeast as late as Sunday and Monday.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tropical Storm Karen Expected to Hit Gulf Coast Saturday  was originally published on