For along much of the gulf coast the time for those preparations is quickly running out with forecasters saying Karen could intensify before landfall.
There are signs of the approaching storm from Louisiana through the Florida Panhandle.
You can see it in the warning flags, sandbags and the last minute rush by crews to secure whatever they can.
"Everybody needs to pay attention and be vigilant because these things have minds of their own," said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
NBC News has obtained this copy of FEMA's daily operations briefing which says the agency is "non mission capable" because of the on-going government shutdown.
That means only 19-percent of its permanent workforce available for deployment.
But Mayor Landrieu insists that will not affect preparations or the response after the storm.
"The furlough and the concerns in Washington are going to have no impact on our ability to put a total complement of federal, state and local officials on the ground."
While many in the potential strike zone are planning a move to higher ground, Tracy Walker and her family had been looking forward to their trip to the beach.
"We said it's the perfect weekend to come to the beach, free of hurricane worries hopefully because it's October we booked a month ago," Walker said.
Karen has turned their long weekend into just a quick day of sand and surf with the waves and clouds building as the storm moves closer.
If Karen stays on its current path., Pensacola, Florida could take one of the most severe hits.
The storm is expected to reach the shoreline sometime late Saturday or early Sunday morning.
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