The storm's center hit around 3 a.m., said Jack Beven, hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The wind and rain started to pick up just after midnight, said Rocky Fox, owner of the Chicken Box bar there. But he wasn't scared: "It's the kind that puddles quick," he said. "To us it's just a big old Nor'easter."
Forecasters cautioned it was a serious storm. A tropical storm warning extended from Plymouth south and west to Woods Hole, including Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Forecasters said the storm may bring in tides of 1 to 3 feet above normal.
"You don't go outside and watch the winds. You don't go and watch the waves," said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.
At 2 a.m. EDT, the storm had maximum sustained winds of about 50 mph. The storm was expected to weaken over the next 24 hours and lose tropical characteristics by Saturday morning.
The Coast Guard was monitoring about 50 commercial fishing vessels still on the New England waters near the storm's path late Thursday night, but had no reports of vessels in trouble, said Chief Petty Officer Scott Carr.
Seas were expected to build to 15 feet southeast of Cape Cod and Nantucket overnight.
Blake said forecasters expect heavy rainfall of about 2 inches on the southeast Massachusetts coast and islands through midday Friday, with tropical storm force winds over 40 mph.
A tropical storm watch was issued for eastern Long Island and parts of Connecticut, but was discontinued early Friday as the storm moved northeast.
Workers at Nantucket Moorings on Thursday were making sure their customers' boats were tied down securely, but they weren't panicking.
"That's all we can do for now — make sure lines are secure and people know that the storm is approaching," said Leigh Van Hoven, office manager of the company, which rents and sells moorings.
A record 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes, including destructive Katrina, occurred during last year's June-November Atlantic hurricane season.
The first named storm of the 2006 season, Tropical Storm Alberto, swept over Florida in mid-June, then plowed northward along the coast past the Outer Banks. It was blamed for one drowning.