Tropical storm Leslie churned northward early Sunday on a path expected to take it to the east of Bermuda, possibly as a weak hurricane.

The British territory's government pulled back on some of its storm preparations Saturday, but warned residents to keep alert in case of changes in Leslie.

The Bermuda Weather Service said forecasts pointed to the storm staying about 320 kilometres to the east Sunday as it headed toward the northern Atlantic.

"Bermuda seems to have escaped the worst of tropical storm Leslie," Wayne Perinchief, the national security minister, said Saturday.

But, he added, "I urge the public to remain cautious." He said strong winds and rain could occur.

The government did drop plans to close the airport, although major airlines already cancelled flights. Officials also decided not to open an emergency shelter but said the facility was ready in case it was needed.

Bermuda, a financial haven and tourist destination about 965 kilometres off the U.S. East Coast, has strong building codes and its people are used to storms.

"I have taken precautions," said Gareth Kerr, 29. "The windows have the shutters across and I got supplies such as water and tinned food. If the weather is bad tomorrow I'll just sit indoors."

James Dodgson, a forecaster for the Bermuda Weather Service, cautioned that even with the storm likely to stay well offshore, there would be a chance of some flooding. He said a probable small storm surge of one or two feet could combine with high tide Sunday to cause minor flooding in low-lying areas.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that late Saturday, the storm was maintaining top sustained winds of 100 km/h, below the hurricane threshold of 120 km/h.

Leslie was about 320 kilometres southeast of Bermuda and was moving north at 13 km/h. The U.S. centre said some strengthening was expected and Leslie could regain hurricane strength Sunday or Sunday night.

A statement issued Sunday morning by the Canadian Hurricane Centre indicated that the likelihood of Leslie's centre making landfall somewhere in Newfoundland is now "quite high."  

The centre's latest forecast track brings Leslie over the Avalon Peninsula as early as Tuesday, as a post-tropical storm with category 1 hurricane winds.

Meanwhile, far out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Michael remained a category 2 storm but slowed a bit to maximum sustained winds of 160 km/h and was not considered any threat to land. For a few hours Thursday, it was the first Category 3 of the Atlantic hurricane season.