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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Officials along the Gulf Coast are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Nate.

It’s already claimed at least 22 lives and drenched Central America with up to 20 inches of rain.

Nate is forecast to strengthen over the Caribbean Sea and possibly hit the Gulf Coast near New Orleans this weekend as a hurricane.

Louisiana’s governor has already declared a state of emergency and residents are stocking up on supplies. Coastal areas have been ordered to evacuate and 1,300 National Guard troops are mobilizing.

“If you’re going to shelter in place which we assume most people will, you need to prepare for outages that could last up to 7 days,” said Melonie Stewart, Director of Operations and Customer Service for Entergy.

FEMA says because hurricane tracks are tricky, it’s monitoring the storm from Texas, Atlanta, Miami, and from its headquarters here in Washington D.C.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said residents in the panhandle need to pay attention to where this storm is headed.

“If this storm slows down, there’s a greater chance it’s going to go a little further to the east,” he said.

“Right now, to the citizens of New Orleans, there is no need to panic but there is reason to prepare,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Officials hope if the storm hits New Orleans, it moves quickly so the pumps aren’t overwhelmed.

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