Aug. 29, 2003 – Tropical Storm Fabian became Hurricane Fabian on Friday afternoon — a lot quicker than forecasters had predicted — according to Andy Roche, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service station in San Juan.
This unexpected increase in strength is making the weather experts a bit nervous, Roche said: "It can vary everything."
Meteorologists had projected on Thursday that the storm wouldn't escalate into a hurricane until Sunday.
Current predictions are for the hurricane to pass 280 miles north of the Virgin Islands on Wednesday. But if the weather system should continue on a westward track instead of turning toward the northeast as predicted, Roche said, that could bode ill for the Virgin Islands.
While it's still only a Category 1 hurricane — with sustained winds of up to 75 mph and gusts to 90 mph — Roche said Fabian could get stronger by the time it reaches the Virgin Islands area.
As of 11 p.m. Friday, the National Weather Service reported, the storm was centered at 16.5 degrees north latitude and 46.2 degrees west longitude, or about a thousand miles east of the Lesser Antilles. It had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph with some strengthening forecast for Saturday.
The storm was moving westward at nearly 15 mph with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 15 miles from the center of the system and tropical storm-force winds extending up to 85 miles.
Roche advised residents to monitor the hurricane's progress throughout the Labor Day weekend and to have their preparations in place in case the weather system does track toward the Virgin Islands.
Harold Baker, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency director, seconded Roche's recommendations. He urged residents to be vigilant and said VITEMA will keep a close watch on developments over the three-day holiday weekend.
"I've been sending bulletins to government agencies," Baker said.
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