Maine is bracing for torrential rains Friday as Tropical Storm Elsa races up the East Coast before heading out to sea Friday night.

Rainfall will be heavy at times, potentially as much as 1 to 2 inches per hour, with Portland and much of Maine’s coast getting drenched with as much as 4 inches.

The National Weather Service in Gray issued a flash flood watch Thursday that will be in effect from 8 a.m. Friday through 8 a.m. Saturday. A watch means there is a strong possibility of flooding.

High winds are unlikely during Friday’s downpours, according to John Cannon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“The greatest threat from this storm is heavy, torrential rains and the chance for flooding,” Cannon said. Cannon said flash flooding could occur just about anywhere, including under bridges, in low lying areas including streets and roads, or along rivers and streams swollen with rain.

The National Weather Service also issued a high surf advisory that will be in effect from 5 p.m. Friday through 11 a.m. Saturday. The storm, which is expected to enter the Gulf of Maine as a tropical cyclone, could produce large waves in the 5-8 feet range. A tropical cyclone is similar to a nor’easter, Cannon said.

The weather service is urging people not to swim in the ocean or stand on rocky outcrops. A powerful wave could sweep a person off rocks, the agency warned.

The weather service is closely monitoring the track of Elsa because if it starts tracking closer to land, rainfall totals could increase significantly Friday, Cannon said.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency says it will also closely monitor Elsa’s track. It is coordinating with county emergency management agencies and utility companies to prepare for possible wind, rain and power outages. The agency said the storm will be fast moving, with the greatest impact Friday afternoon and evening.

“We are working together with all our partners to plan for this event,” Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Peter Rogers said in a statement. “With 1 to three inches of rain expected, Maine people should be aware that there is a potential for localized flash flooding.”

Central Maine Power said it is ready to respond if power outages occur. CMP said the storm is expected to mostly produce heavy rain, but strong wind gusts are possible, particularly along the coast. Flooding could hamper power restoration crews in some areas if there are outages.

“We have had enough experience with coastal storms to know they are not always predictable, and could track differently than forecasts project,” Kerri Therriault, director of CMP’s electric operations, said in a statement. “CMP has secured the support of more than 50 Maine-based line contractors, several tree crews and will position or move our crews as needed.”

Most of the coast, including Portland, and the region stretching from Fryeburg and Rumford to Skowhegan stands to get 2 to 4 inches of rain. Northern parts of the state could get 1.5 to 2 inches of rain, according to the weather service.

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