Hurricane Bill strengthened into a powerful and massive Category 4 storm early Wednesday as it rumbled across the Atlantic, packing maximum sustained winds of near 135 mph.

Bill was centered approximately 460 miles east of the Leeward Islands in the northern Caribbean chain and more than 1,100 miles southeast of Bermuda early Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Most of the computer models still had Bill passing between Bermuda and the U.S. mid-Atlantic coastline later this week, and then beginning to loop away to the northwest.

On that track, Bill could take a swipe at New England and Canada's Maritime provinces this weekend, where the much cooler waters are expected to sap its strength.

Although the NHC does not expect Bill to make U.S. landfall, forecasters warned that heavy surf and swells would affect the entire East Coast from Florida to Maine in the next few days.

The storm’s hurricane-force winds extend up to 45 miles outward from the center, and tropical storm-force winds reach out 175 miles, the hurricane center said.

Meanwhile, Bermuda’s Emergency Measures Organization urged the public to have preparations complete by early Friday, including securing boats and stocking supplies.

The Bermuda Hotel Association’s Hurricane Guarantee program will kick in if Bill comes within 200 miles of the island. At this point, it is not expected to come that close, forecasters said.

The hurricane has affected the itinerary for the Carnival Glory, which left Port Canaveral on Aug. 15 on a seven-day cruise.

The ship will stay at sea on Wednesday instead of calling on St. Maarten. It will visit Grand Turk tomorrow instead of spending the day at sea, and will return to Port Canaveral on Saturday as planned.

Norwegian Cruise Line said that the Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Majesty sailings would most likely leave Bermuda early on Thursday and that there are no other changes to this weekend’s Bermuda cruises.

Royal Caribbean International reordered port calls for the Explorer of the Seas, which departs Cape Liberty on Thursday, Aug. 20. The ship will visit San Juan on Sunday; St. Maarten on Monday; St. Thomas on Tuesday; and King's Wharf, Bermuda on Thursday.

Johanna Jainchill contributed to this report.

The story was updated to add altered itineraries for NCL and Royal Caribbean.


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