Sept. 11, 2003 — The Virgin Islands again appears to have dodged a powerful and dangerous hurricane. While Hurricane Fabian had everyone on edge last week, this week attention turned to Hurricane Isabel.
Now a very strong Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 mph and gusts to 185 mph, the hurricane on Thursday had veered north enough to miss the Virgin Islands and the rest of the northern Leeward Islands.
"But the seas are going to turn dangerous," warned Andy Roche, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan.
The storm is expected to pass 370 miles north northeast of the Virgin Islands on Monday, Roche said. He said the seas will start to build on the north and east coasts on Thursday night. He expects heavy surf advisories and coastal flood watches to be posted. The seas could remain rough until Wednesday.
Roche said the territory will see only normal rain and light winds.
As of 11 a.m. Thursday, Hurricane Isabel was centered at 21.4 degrees north latitude and 54.5 degrees west longitude, or about 535 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands. Pressure stood at 930 millibars or 27.46 inches. It is moving west at 9 mph.
Hurricane force winds extend outward 60 miles, with tropical storm force winds reaching 185 miles from the center.
Although Hurricane Isabel is a Category 4 hurricane, it is only 5 mph away from being classified as a Category 5. Winds must blow at 155 mph to be a Category 5.
Roche said it is too soon to tell the hurricane's path, but it now appears likely that the northern Bahamas will be in harm's way.
As residents breathed a sigh of relief that they were spared this one, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Services director Harold Baker warned them to keep their eyes on the weather.
"Caution is the byword," he said, pointing out that hurricanes are unpredictable, which could cause Isabel to shift direction and head toward the territory.
He urged surfers and people in small boats to be especially cautious because of the expected high seas. The Weather Channel suggested swells may reach 18 feet.
"The undertow can suck you in," he said.
Tropical Depression 14 has dissipated and poses no threat to anyone.
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