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Waves crashing against the shore... a sign that an approaching tropical storm could become the first hurricane to take aim at the U.S. this year. Residents along the Gulf Coast are on high alert as hurricane Karen theatens to sweep in with damaging winds, heavy rain and high tides over the weekend. Boats have been secured, houses shuttered and beaches cleared. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JEFFERSON PARISH PRESIDENT JOHN YOUNG SAYING: "We're ready. We've been through this before. It's not our first rodeo, and we're fully prepared and ready to execute whatever we have to do." A hurricane watch has been issued from Lousiana to Florida. In Alabama, workers raised double red flags along beaches warning of treacherous rip tides. The National Hurricane Centre expects the storm, which is moving northwest, to strengthen to just below hurricane strength by late Friday,