Aug. 27, 2004 – While forecasters still think Hurricane Frances will pass about 200 miles north of the territory around noon on Tuesday, they're warning that it could be a closer call than expected.
"It can be going along perfect to forecast — and then, on short notice, it can make a slight deviation in course and intensification to cause a big impact," Scott Stripling, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan, said.
He pointed out that the Virgin Islands falls within what forecasters refer to as "the cone of probability," which means you better pay attention in case things do change quickly.
Harold Baker, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, urged residents to stock up on emergency food and water supplies, make sure they have adequate prescription medicines on hand, and stay tuned to the weather reports. "Be prepared," he said.
Frances is now a dangerous Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 115 mph and gusts hitting 140 mph. Forecasters expect it to strengthen further into a Category 4 over the weekend. Category 4 hurricanes pack winds of 131 to 155 mph.
Stripling said the entire territory should start seeing swells on the coasts facing east and northeast on Sunday. "They will be heavy Monday and Tuesday," he said.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, Hurricane Frances was centered at 15.7 degrees north latitude and 49.8 degrees west longitude, about 800 miles east of the Leeward Islands. It was moving northwest at 11 mph. The barometric pressure stood at 962 millibars, or 28.40 inches.
Hurricane-force winds extend out 25 miles from the center of the system, with tropical storm-force winds reaching outward 105 miles.
Another weather system, Tropical Depression 7, formed late Friday afternoon off the South Carolina coast, but forecasters said it will pose no threat to the Virgin Islands.
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