Aug. 31, 2003 — Hurricane Fabian strengthened Saturday from a Category 1 to a Category 2 and then to a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, but forecasters continue to predict that the storm will miss the Virgin Islands. Predictions call for the hurricane to pass 260 miles northeast of the Virgin Islands on Tuesday afternoon.
"It doesn't look like the track will take it any closer," said Brad Diehl, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan. He said that he doesn't see any weather system that would make the hurricane change its course but, of course, that could happen and the Virgin Islands could get brushed by the storm or even take a hit.
Hurricane-force winds extend out 25 miles, with tropical storm-force winds extending 115 miles.
This is the first major storm of the 2003 season. A storm is considered major if winds reach 111 mph or more.
At 11 a.m., Hurricane Fabian had winds of 125 mph with higher gusts and was moving west at 13 mph. It was centered at 18.1 degrees north latitude and 53.2 degrees west longitude, or 550 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands. The pressure stood at 952 millibars or 28.11 inches.
The scale defines a Category 3 as having winds from 111 to 130 mph, storm surge 5-7 feet, and "moderate" damage.
Diehl said the hurricane could strengthen further over the next day. He said that the territory could get some strong wind and rain from the storm if it remains, as expected, on its current course.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Grace formed Saturday in the Gulf of Mexico. Early Sunday it was downgraded to a depression. It is headed for Texas and poses no threat to the Virgin Islands.
Since the height of hurricane season in mid-September is approaching, V.I. residents should expect more frequent storm development and be mindful of preparations recommended by V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the local American Red Cross chapter.
Hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.
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