By Brendan O'Brien
(Reuters) - Hurricane Lee barreled across the North Atlantic toward New England and Eastern Canada on Friday, threatening to bring drenching rains, powerful winds and a life-threatening storm surge to the region over the weekend.
Lee is expected to weaken into a strong tropical storm before making landfall in southwestern Nova Scotia as a strong tropical storm late on Saturday, the Canadian Hurricane Center said.
Even so, the storm has the potential to dump as much as 4 inches (10 cm) of rain and produce winds of up to 60 miles (97 km) an hour in some spots, prompting U.S. and Canadian officials to urge residents to prepare for possible flooding and power outages.
"Please plan ahead to stay indoors if possible on Saturday and check on your loved ones and neighbors,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement to the city's 650,000 residents.
Some 8 million Americans in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine were under a tropical storm warning, with conditions in those states expected to deteriorate on Friday and into Saturday, the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) said.
In Canada, more than 1 million people in Nova Scotia and eastern New Brunswick were also under a tropical storm warning as the massive storm crawls northward over the open waters of the Atlantic.
"Heavy rainfall rates and potential gusty winds are our largest concern for inland areas, with the addition of high surf and minor inundation along the coast," the NWS said on Facebook on Friday.
Some spots, such as Cape Cod in Massachusetts and eastern Halifax County in Nova Scotia may see storm surge of up to 3 feet (91 cm), forecasters said.
As of Friday morning, the storm was about 490 miles (785 km) southeast of the Massachusetts island of Nantucket as it moved north at about 16 miles per hour. It was expected to pick up speed and weaken through the day, the weather service said.
Lee is the latest storm in what is proving to be a busy hurricane season that has featured a higher-than-average number of named storms.
Just two weeks ago, on Aug. 30, Hurricane Idalia slammed into Florida's Gulf Coaston. As Idalia moved north, the powerful storm dumped heavy rains across Florida and southeastern Georgia, flooding numerous communities and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Mark Porter and Chizu Nomiyama)