The U.S.-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) upgraded Nicole to a Category 3 hurricane as it was set to hit Bermuda early Thursday.
While Bermuda has sturdy infrastructure and is accustomed to storms, government officials urged people to prepare for the hurricane and remain indoors Thursday.
"We have a long night in front of us,'' Premier Michael Dunkley said Wednesday. "We better be prepared for the onslaught of hurricane-force winds, but if we heed the warnings, we will be in a strong position once the storm blows through.''
Wednesday evening, Nicole was located about 335 kilometers southwest of Bermuda, a British territory about 1,500 km from the U.S. East Coast, with maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour.
"An increase in forward speed is expected [on Wednesday night], followed by a northeastward turn and an additional increase in forward speed on Thursday," the NHC said.
Nicole forced the U.S. space agency to postpone a cargo supply trip to the International Space Station. NASA said the launch, initially set for Thursday, will now be no earlier than Sunday from Wallops Island, Virginia.
NASA said the delay was necessary because the mission requires a critical launch-tracking station based in Bermuda.
American Airlines and Air Canada are among several carriers that canceled flights to the island; several cruise ships canceled trips, as well.
The hurricane is kicking up heavy surf in islands south of Bermuda including Puerto Rico, where authorities said they were looking for the body of a surfer who disappeared Tuesday.