By Elizabeth Wolfe and Mary Gilbert, CNN
(CNN) — Hurricane Lee began to unleash strong winds on Bermuda Thursday morning, ahead of a track which will bring heavy rain, wind and coastal flooding from the massive storm to coastal New England and Atlantic Canada Friday and through the weekend.
After days of uncertainty, there’s little time left for Lee’s track to change considerably, and confidence has grown now that the hurricane has completed its long-awaited northward turn and begun to pick up its pace.
Lee is expected to track far enough away from the East Coast to avoid delivering a substantial blow to a more widespread and inland area of New England, but will still affect the coast ahead of a weekend landfall somewhere between northeast Maine and the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.
Lee was about 245 miles southwest of Bermuda as of late Thursday morning and was churning with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph – a Category 1 hurricane – according to the National Hurricane Center. An island-wide tropical storm warning is in effect for Bermuda as Lee tracks west of the island.
Hurricane and tropical storm watches have been issued for many of New England’s coastal residents in anticipation of the colossal storm’s impact on Friday and through the weekend. A tropical storm warning was issued late Thursday morning for the Massachusetts coast from the Cape to just south of Boston.
Lee’s winds could begin to buffet parts of New England as early as Friday evening as the storm’s center is expected to pass close to the region’s southeast.
Though the storm is expected to weaken as it approaches land, it will still have a massive radius of damaging winds that could pound coastal New England and Canada’s Atlantic provinces. As of late Thursday morning, hurricane-force winds extend up to 90 miles from its center and tropical storm-force winds stretched for up to 310 miles, according to the hurricane center.
Hurricane-strength winds are possible from the northern coast of Maine into portions of the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on Saturday. Tropical storm-force wind gusts are possible across a much larger area of New England and Atlantic Canada.
These strong winds will contribute to storm surge flooding up to 4 feet that could inundate parts of the southeast Massachusetts coast late Friday and Saturday. A storm surge watch has been issued for the area, including Cape Cod and Nantucket.
Heavy rainfall could pose a flood threat to some already rain-drenched areas of the Northeast, where saturated ground may be particularly susceptible to flash flooding. Lee’s heaviest rain will fall over portions of Maine Saturday, but states like New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are not completely in the clear.
Lee could deliver 1 to 2 inches of rain from Rhode Island to northern Maine, while 2 to 4 inches of rain can fall across the Massachusetts Cape and much of Maine. Repeated downpours may bring up to 6 inches of rain to southeastern Maine.
The softened soil combined with stiff wind gusts will also increase the likelihood of downed trees, which in turn could knock out essential power lines and cause outages. Areas at and near the coast, which will feel the strongest of Lee’s winds, will be the most at risk of wind damage and power outages.
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CNN’s Mary Gilbert, Aya Elamroussi, Brandon Miller and Sara Smart contributed to this report.