Hurricane Irene may lose some of its strength when it reaches Eastern Canada late Sunday, but people from Quebec to Newfoundland can expect to feel its effects, forecasters say.
"Over the weekend, we will be able to be more geographically-specific about where these effects will be felt," said CBC meteorologist Karen Matthews Friday.
By late afternoon Friday, the Category 2 storm was 490 kilometres south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, N.C. moving at about 22 km/h.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre says Irene could be a very wide storm as it moves through Maine and northern New Brunswick.
The storm is expected to transition to a post-tropical storm by the time it hits Canada, with wind and rainfall spreading far from the storm centre.
The centre said it's likely that sustained tropical storm force winds of at least 60 km/h will spread over much of the Maritime provinces and the eastern portions of Quebec by late Sunday or early Monday.
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has issued travel warnings advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to the central, southeastern and northwestern Bahamas and parts of the U.S. East Coast expected to be affected by Irene.
Generally, the heaviest rain falls to the left of the track of the storm and the highest winds to the right.
Chris Fogarty, with the Canadian Hurricane Centre, looked at past storms with similar tracks to Irene and found that outcomes can vary dramatically.
Hurricane Edna, which tracked over the eastern part of Maine in 1954, brought a lot of wind to southeast New Brunswick and mainland Nova Scotia.
"So that's a pretty windy scenario with potential for damage," Fogarty told CBC Friday.
On the other hand, he said, 1985's Hurricane Gloria, which centred over the western part of Maine, didn't cause too much trouble at all in the Maritimes.
High tides, storm surge risk
Fogarty said because of a new moon cycle, there will be a round of higher tides — called perigean tides.
That means there is risk of storm surges in the coastal regions of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
"So if the storm arrives at either of these times, because there still is about a 12-hour uncertainty in the arrival time, then we will be concerned about tide surge effects in that area."
Gale force winds in advance of Irene will likely move into portions of the southwest Maritime marine district late on Sunday, according to the centre.
The gales would then spread to portions of the gulf of St. Lawrence. Just right of the storm track, storm force or even hurricane-force winds are possible.
Wave heights up to five metres are possible over southwestern Maritime waters into the Bay of Fundy late Sunday or early Monday.
Large waves could occur over portions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the entrance to the St. Lawrence River when Irene approaches and passes through.
Farmers downstream of Mactaquac in New Brunswick are advised that water levels in the St. John River could produce flooding in low-lying areas adjacent to the river. They should take steps to protect their livestock and equipment.
"It is worth noting that many parts of Eastern Canada have received above normal rainfall this summer, which could raise the risk of flooding," said CBC meteorologist Karen Matthews Friday.
The Emergency Measures Organization has set up its operation centre in Fredericton, ready to respond if the hurricane does cause extensive damage and flooding.
Beach-goers are warned to be careful this weekend.
The waves at Martinique beach in Dartmouth, N.S., were already strong enough Friday to force a national lifesaving competition to scale down.
"We've had significant challenges today because of the heavy surf and we are postponing the rest of the water events until tomorrow, hoping that the surf might die down a little," said Paul D'Eon, director of the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service.
D'Eon said beaches in Nova Scotia would be supervised by lifeguards until the guards believe it's too dangerous.
Then they'll be closed and people will be warned to stay away from the water.
"Don't underestimate the power of the surf and the danger that's there. Stay well back, this is very dangerous surf," D'Eon warned.
Canadian Hurricane Centre meteorologist Jean-Marc Couturier said New Brunswick will likely experience heavy rain on Sunday night, especially the northern part of the province.
"We are getting indications of potentially 120 millimetres or so for northern New Brunswick, then southern New Brunswick could be receiving something in the order of 80 millimetres," he said.
Couturier said wind speed will diminish significantly by the time it reaches Canada. But he said the storm will be a major one, and is urging people to prepare.
"People at this point should really seriously get ready, get prepared for power outages, and what we like to tell people is can you be autonomous for three days?"
Emergency management officials urge people to prepare an emergency kit with bottled water and flashlights to get through possible power outages. They also recommend trimming loose tree branches to prevent damage to homes.
Boaters are advised that with the possibility of high winds, strong wave conditions may develop, and steps should be taken to protect boats, docks and other equipment.
In Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, Peter Elderkin hopes his farm is spared Irene's wrath. If heavy winds knock the pears off the trees, his fruit will be worthless.