TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in 18 Florida Panhandle counties in preparation for Tropical Storm Karen.

Scott signed the order Thursday evening.

Karen is forecast to hit the northern Gulf Coast over the weekend as a weak hurricane or tropical storm. A hurricane watch i in effect from Grand Isle, La., to west of Destin, Fla. It could be at or near hurricane strength late Friday and early Saturday.

Forecasters say Karen is expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to portions of the central and eastern Gulf Coast through Sunday night.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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