As a weakened Irene churned up the Eastern seaboard, Mainers braced for what local forecasters predicted would be a “big rainmaker” with strong gusts capable of ripping up trees, downing power lines and wreaking havoc over a wide swath of Maine, from the mountains to the sea.

Maine will begin feeling the effects of the hurricane overnight tonight, said Butch Roberts, a hydro-meteorological technician for the National Weather Service in Gray.

“We’re going to start seeing real effects later tonight and early in the morning. The storm is going to ramp up as it moves through during the day. It looks like it’s going to move through during the day tomorrow to the west. The farther west, it lessens the impact that we will feel here on the coast.

“But it’s still a significant problem. It’s a big rainmaker capable of causing a lot of damage,” he said.

The hurricane is expected to cross into western Maine late Sunday afternoon, bringing strong winds, heavy rain and high seas. Moderate flooding is expected through the region, with swollen river and streams, flash floods and high-tide spillover. Maine remains under a tropical storm warning and flood watch. As much as 8 inches of rain may fall across the region, with sustained winds of 30 to 40 miles an hour throughout the day and gusts up to 60 miles an hour.

Gov. Paul LePage said he expects the storm to affect the entire state. “No one is going to escape the heavy winds and rains,” he said. LePage said he anticipates “significant power outages,” but added that public and private organizations are prepared for the storm and its aftermath.

“I am very confident that state, federal and local assets have been put on standby and are ready to respond,” he said. “I am, however, urging all Mainers to take precautions now. Do not wait.”

Shelters began opening Saturday afternoon. Anyone can call 2-1-1 to find a shelter or other assistance in their area.

One woman checked in the American Red Cross shelter at Scarborough High School soon after it opened at 3 p.m., said shelter manager Sharon Collin. She watched alone at a table in the cafeteria as CNN broadcast news of the storm in mid-Atlantic.

“We’re hoping for early evacuations, so people don’t arrive at once,” Collin said.

The Maine National Guard is ready for whatever comes its way, said John W. Libby, commissioner for the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. The guard has never been better trained because of overseas deployments. He anticipates the guard will be called into service.

The American Red Cross has 150 volunteers to staff shelters, Maine Emergency Management Association Director Robert McAleer said. State officials also contacted other volunteer organizations, power and telecommunications companies and retailers.

Late Saturday, as Irene continued its massive destruction along the mid-Atlantic, Mainers turned a stiff upper lift. Under steamy, sultry skies, festivals across the state went off without a hitch, including an art show in Portland, an air show in Brunswick and a folk festival in Bangor. But all canceled plans for Sunday.

While lobstermen in Phippsburg hauled traps to remove them from harm’s way, surfers by the dozen spilled into the water at Higgins Beach in Scarborough. More than two dozens surfers were in the water at Higgins Beach on Saturday afternoon, riding waves of about five feet that were expected to grow in size and ferocity by nightfall and into today.

“(Sunday) morning should be good,” said Jim Duchesne of Falmouth, as he prepared to enter the water. “As the day progresses, it will get a little dicier, a little more interesting.”

Otherwise there was little evidence of storm alarm at Higgins. Residents removed lawn furniture and flags, but went about their business.

South at Kennebunkport, former President George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara remained at their summer home. A spokesman for the Bushes said they would move inland if the weather becomes too rough at Walker’s Point.

Mainers appeared ready. In Portland, D batteries were in short supply at big box retailers and local hardware stores. Similarly, the sump pump shelves were empty, and grocery stores in coastal communities struggled to keep drinking water and other emergency supplies in stock.

The city of Portland opened a hurricane shelter Saturday night at the Portland Expo for people seeking protection. Evacuees at they shelter will be provided with basic necessities and pets will be allowed. Officials reminded residents not to forget to bring prescription medications.