Hurricane Bill reaches Category 4 strength

Hurricane Bill was about 460 miles east of the Leeward Islands at 5 a.m. ET Wednesday.
Bill strengthened into a powerful Category 4 storm early Wednesday as it churned far from land with maximum sustained winds near 135 mph.

At 5 a.m. ET, Bill was centered about 460 miles east of the Leeward Islands, and more than 1,100 miles southeast of Bermuda, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters expected Bill to maintain its intensity, while turning more to northwest on Wednesday. “On this track, the core of this dangerous hurricane will be passing well to the northeast of the northern Leeward Islands late today and early Thursday,” according to the hurricane center. The northern Leeward Islands are east of Puerto Rico. The storm’s five-day forecast maps shows Bill missing Bermuda before beginning to loop away from the U.S. East Coast. Though Bermuda might escape a direct hit from Bill, it could experience strong waves and fierce winds, meteorologists said.

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No computer models showed Bill posing a major danger to the United States. However, the models show possible landfall in the Canadian Maritimes, north of Maine. Bill, the first hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic season, was heading west-northwest at near 16 mph early Wednesday. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 45 miles from the center, and tropical storm-force winds of at least extended outward up to 175 miles.

The remnants of Tropical Depression Ana continued to drop heavy rain across Hispaniola and Cuba on Tuesday, CNN meteorologists said. Forecasters expect Ana to wash south Florida in heavy rain as it passes through the Keys this week. There’s a slight chance that Ana could regenerate into a tropical cyclone after it moves into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico later this week, the National Hurricane Center said.