(MSNBC) - NASSAU, Bahamas - Hurricane Noel, now the deadliest storm to hit the Atlantic this year, is not expected to gain strength as it tracks northward but it may grow in size and dump several inches of rain along the East Coast, forecasters said Friday.
Noel slammed the Caribbean earlier this week with heavy rains that caused flooding and mudslides, leaving a death toll that has risen again and now stands at 115, officials said.
After drenching the Bahamas on Thursday, Noel became a Category 1 hurricane and continued along its path between the southeastern coast of the U.S. and the Bahamas.
Its sustained winds were at 80 mph early Friday and its center was about 470 miles south of Cape Hatteras, N.C., the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Noel is moving to the north-northeast at about 18 mph.
Jack Beven, a hurricane specialist at the center, said Friday that "we don't expect the center to cross the U.S. coast. The track would take the center of the system over Nova Scotia."
But Beven also noted that the storm "is going to increase rather significantly in size" and that its effects could be felt along the East Coast. Forecasters say 2 to 4 inches of rain could fall in North Carolina's Outer Banks, while isolated areas of New England might see 6 inches.
On Thursday, muddy waters swollen by Noel's rains overflowed a dam in Cuba, washing into hundreds of homes, over highways and knocking out electricity and telephone service. Dozens of small communities were cut off.
Cuban soldiers went door-to-door in low-lying areas and evacuated about 24,000 people, according to state radio and television reports. At least 2,000 homes were damaged by flood waters, but there was no official word of deaths.
In Ciego de Avila province in central Cuba, flooding wiped out nearly 2,000 tons of corn, potato, banana, cucumber and tomato harvests, said Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, a vice president.