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DAY OF WAITING IS BOTH TENSE AND TEDIOUS

It was a see-saw day of tension and tedium Wednesday as Virgin Islanders awaited each new tidbit of news about the unwelcome would-be visitor named Jose who was slowly but, it appeared by nightfall, almost surely making his way to their corner of the Caribbean.
Projections as of 8 p.m. called for the hurricane to pass about 50 miles northeast of St. Thomas and St. John around 7 a.m. Thursday, and for St. Croix to escape the full hurricane-force winds.
The coordinates of the storm issued by the National Weather Service in Miami at 11 p.m. placed the center of the Category 2 hurricane near 17.8 degrees north latitude and 63.0 degrees west longitude, about 115 miles east of St. Croix and 140 miles east-southeast of St. Thomas and St. John.
With maximum sustained winds of nearly 100 mph, Jose was moving between west-northwest and northwest at nearly 10 mph and was projected to continue doing so for another 24 hours. It that track holds true, residents of St. Thomas and St. John should start feeling sustained tropical storm-force winds (39-73 mph) with hurricane-force (at least 74 mph) gusts around 3 a.m. Thursday and continue to experience the storm's force until around 3 p.m., while St. Croix is expected to remain "just on the border" of the tropical storm-force winds.
However, the weather officials said, "any leftward [westward] deviation of the forecast track could then bring the threat of hurricane-force winds to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Culebra and Vieques."
Deviations were in part what kept the tension high Wednesday, as weather forecasters and government officials alternately expressed optimism that Hurricane Jose would continue to move more northward than westward, and warned Virgin Islanders not to be lulled into complacency. While Jose appeared at midday to be on its way to giving the territory a miss, it angled back to the west in the evening, again posing a threat especially to St. Thomas and St. John.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull took to the radio airwaves at mid-morning and again in the mid-afternoon to reassure the community that all due precautions were being taken but also to urge everyone to remain "vigilant." The governor noted that he had already submitted his request for President Clinton to declare a federal state of emergency in the territory — a routine procedure to facilitate a rapid response in the immediate aftermath of a disaster — and said Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel were already in the territory. (The President can declare such an emergency only at the request of a "state" executive; once a disaster is declared, the first thing FEMA officials do is conduct a damage assessment at the disaster site.)
The day that dawned overcast with intermittent showers moved into a sunny calm in the afternoon, even as the airports closed down, ferry service was discontinued and a curfew ordered by the governor took effect at 6 p.m. Radio stations opted for their regular evening programming, and as midnight neared, only the rustle of leaves in the trees suggested that Wednesday night would lead to a dawn different from the one before.
Jose moved from a Category 1 to a Category 2 hurricane Wednesday when its sustained winds increased from around 90 mph to nearly 100 mph; otherwise, the storm's statistics changed little throughout the day and were expected to remain about the same overnight. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the core, and tropical storm-force winds extend out as far as 140 miles — but wind gusts can be much greater over higher elevations than at sea level. Outer rainbands were expected to produce moderate to heavy rainfall into the night, with an increased risk of flash flooding. The National Weather Service projected rainfall of 5 to 10 inches along Jose's path.
A coast flood watch remained in effect for the north, east and southeast coasts of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a heavy surf advisory with the likelihood of beach erosion continued for the whole territory. The latest minimum central pressure reported was 990 mb or 29.23 inches.
As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, a hurricane warning remained in effect for Montserrat, Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Eustatius, Saba, Dutch Sint Maarten, and Anguilla, as well as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. A hurricane watch remained for French St. Martin and St. Barth's.

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