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(Reuters) - Operations at oil rigs off Canada's Atlantic Coast are unlikely to be hurt by Hurricane Maria, which may tear down trees and cut power in the southeastern tip of Newfoundland later on Friday, officials said.
The Hibernia oil field, owned by Exxon Mobil Corp and several partners, is in the path of the Category 1 hurricane but experts said the conditions - including 6-meter (19-foot) waves - will not be much worse than during a typical winter storm.
"The wind and waves the oil areas would experience are nothing terribly uncommon for them," said Chris Fogarty, program supervisor at the Canadian Hurricane Center.
Margot Bruce-O'Connell, spokeswoman for Hibernia, said production operations are not expected to be affected based on the current forecast. The operating company is not evacuating workers from the platform, she said.
Hibernia, the largest oil field on the Grand Banks and located 315 km (197 miles) east of St. John's, Newfoundland, produced about 160,000 barrels of oil a day in July, according to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.
Suncor and Husky Energy, other oil companies operating in the region, said late Thursday they plan to operate normally during the storm.
The biggest damage from Maria is expected after it reaches landfall at mid-afternoon on Friday.
Weather experts originally expected the storm to bypass land altogether, but now see winds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, rainfall of 50 millimeters and coastal surges that could cause flooding in the Avalon Peninsula on the extreme southeast of Newfoundland.
These conditions are likely to bring down power lines and knock down large branches and trees, Fogarty said.
The provincial capital of St. John's is under threat of tropical storm-strength winds.
Maria is expected to change into a tropical storm after tracking across the area.
Fogarty said Hurricane Maria would be less severe than Hurricane Igor, which reached Newfoundland last September, causing one death and almost C$200 million ($204 million) in damages.
Reporting by Louise Egan, Jeffrey Jones and Scott Haggett; editing by Peter Galloway