09/15/2011 07:00 EDT | Updated 11/15/2011 05:12 EST

Maria Becomes Hurricane As It Races Toward N.L.

Tropical storm Maria has become a Category 1 hurricane and is expected to make landfall Friday afternoon in southeast Newfoundland.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre issued a statement Thursday night indicating Maria had reached maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometres an hour.

Earlier Thursday, CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon says the increased winds made Maria a Category 1 hurricane. He said it was moving toward Newfoundland at almost 60 kilometres an hour by early evening.

"It is expected to be a tropical storm,” said Snoddon, “but perhaps just less than a Category 1 hurricane when it does approach.

"Tropical storm warnings have now been issued for the entire Avalon, including the St. John's metro area. A hurricane watch is now in effect for the southern parts of the Avalon so the tropical storm watch is now a hurricane watch."

The latest numbers from Environment Canada are predicting winds gusting to 100 kilometres per hour along the southern Avalon by Friday evening and rainfall amounts of up to 80 mm.

For St. John’s, the Avalon Peninsula North and the Avalon Peninsula South, Environment Canada is expecting winds gusting up to 80 kilometres per hour by early evening and rainfall amounts of approximately 50 mm.

For the southern portions of the Avalon Peninsula winds of 120 kilometres per hour are possible for Friday afternoon.

Winds that strong can topple trees and cause damage to roofing material.

Snoddon said as the storm continues to track northward, it is expected to strengthen overnight while still in warmer waters but as it approaches the island and runs in to colder waters, the storm should weaken slightly.