- NEW: A tropical storm watch is issued for Newfoundland
- NEW: Maria is expected to become a hurricane Thursday
- NEW: The storm is moving away from Bermuda
Tropical Storm Maria was passing by Bermuda on Thursday and was expected to strengthen into a hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said.
A tropical storm warning remained in effect for Bermuda, but a hurricane watch was canceled, as Maria -- which is moving at a rapid clip -- was expected to pull away from the island later Thursday, forecasters said.
However, a tropical storm watch was issued for Newfoundland, as the forecast track shows the storm crossing the tip of the Canadian island on Friday.
As of Thursday afternoon, Maria was about 145 miles northwest of Bermuda and was speeding north-northeast at about 32 mph, the Hurricane Center said. Its maximum sustained winds were at 70 mph with higher gusts, just shy of the 74-mph hurricane threshold.
"Maria is expected to become a hurricane later today, but should start to weaken on Friday," forecasters said.
Bermuda was expected to receive 1 to 3 inches of rain on Thursday, the Hurricane Center said. "Tropical storm conditions are expected to continue on Bermuda through today. Tropical storm conditions are possible in the watch area in Canada Friday afternoon."
As Maria's rain bands passed over Bermuda Thursday, the Hurricane Center said a sustained wind of 52 mph was recorded at Commissioners Point, an elevated location on Bermuda, with gusts to 69 mph.
The storm is expected to turn northeast and speed up on Friday.
Tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph extended outward up to 205 miles to the east of Maria's center, the Hurricane Center said.