Aug. 26, 2004 – Don't panic, meteorologist Brian Seeley with the National Weather Service in San Juan said, but Hurricane Frances has not turned to the northwest as forecasters originally thought it would.
"It stayed much farther south than originally predicted," he said on Thursday afternoon.
It now appears that Hurricane Frances will pass about 250 miles north of the territory on Tuesday instead of the 600 to 700 miles northeast as earlier predicted. However, how close it actually comes depends on how much of a wobble it takes. The wobble depends on the steering currents.
"There could be potential problems if it takes an unexpected turn," Seeley said.
That is what happened in southwest Florida when forecasters thought as late as the morning of Aug. 13 that Hurricane Charley was taking dead aim on Tampa Bay. By the afternoon, it was making landfall 75 miles to the south at Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte and heading inland to cut a swath to the north.
Frances, a tropical storm until the 5 p.m. Thursday update, is now a Category 1 hurricane. Seeley said it appears that the weather system will intensify rapidly to the point where it will be a Category 3 hurricane by Saturday morning. He said forecasters are not especially good at predicting intensity, particularly when it escalates rapidly.
As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Hurricane Frances was centered at 13.7 degrees north latitude and 46.4 degrees west longitude, or about 1,005 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. It was moving westward at 16 mph with sustained winds of 80 mph, double its strength 24 hours earlier. The barometric pressure stood at 983 millibars, or 29.02 inches.
Hurricane-force winds extended out 55 miles from the center, with tropical storm-force winds reaching 80 miles outward.
Forecasters expect Hurricane Frances to slow down, which would allow for it to intensify in strength.
Seeley said Virgin Islands residents should monitor this storm very closely. "The next day or two is critical," he said.
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