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Hurricane Frances Worrisome, But Should Miss V.I.

Aug. 29, 2004 – Keep your fingers and toes crossed. Forecasters still think Hurricane Frances will pass north of the territory on Tuesday afternoon, but only about 140 miles from St. Thomas and St. John.
"St. Thomas and St. John would be at the very edge of tropical storm force winds," said Scott Stripling, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan.
He said residents should look for sustained winds of 20 to 25 mph, with higher gusts. Hurricane Frances is still a powerful Category 4 storm with winds of 135 mph and gusts of 160 mph.
At 5 p.m. Sunday, Hurricane Frances is centered at 18.8 degrees north latitude and 55.6 degrees west longitude. This puts it about 495 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands.
It is moving west at 9 mph. Stripling said that although the Weather Services views Hurricane Francis as taking a westerly track, it's making tiny increments to the west-northwest. They are enough to keep it north of the territory.
"But any kind of a sustained westward motion could bring it closer," Stripling warned.
The pressure stands at 949 millibars or 28.01 inches.
Hurricane force winds extend out 35 miles, with tropical storm force winds reaching outward 115 miles.
Tropical storm watches went up at the 5 p.m. update on Sunday for Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, and St. Maarten. It may be extended to the British Virgin Islands later Sunday. Stripling said the BVI is included because Anegada is expected to get stronger winds than the other islands in the U.S. and British chain.
However, he said it might become necessary to post tropical storm watches for the U.S. territory.
Stripling said swells are already beginning on the north and northeast coasts of St. Croix. By Monday, they will be more northeast, with the territory's Caribbean Sea coasts seeing big swells.
While it seems likely that the territory will squeak by on this storm, now is a good time to send stay safe messages to family and friends in the Bahamas. Stripling said those islands would get hammered.
As for Florida, he said it would be "very interesting."
"It's going to make the East Coast of Florida very nervous, but all of the southeast U.S. should pay attention to this one," Stripling said.
He said it looks like the storm will intensify, possibly to a Category 5, as it passes north of Puerto Rico.
Stripling reminded residents that conditions are ripe for more storms to form.
"At least for the next couple of weeks," he said.
At the 5 p.m. update on Sunday, Tropical Storm Hermine joined Tropical Storm Gaston on the list of current storms. Tropical Storm Gaston is hitting South Carolina, but Tropical Storm Hermine remains off the southeast U.S. coast and poses no threat to land. Neither threatens the territory.
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