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Frances Expected to Come within 120 Miles of V.I.

Aug. 30, 2004 – Tuesday is shaping up to be a day to stay home with a good book if you don't have to go to work or school. Hurricane Frances is expected to come closest to the territory – passing about 120 miles to the northeast of St. Thomas and St. John – around 7 to 8 a.m.
Tropical storm-force winds extend out 140 miles from the center of the Category 3 storm and hurricane force winds, 70 miles. So, it will definitely be a damp day.
By 2 p.m. Tuesday, the storm is projected to be 125 to 130 miles due north of St. Thomas and St. John and moving away to the west.
"By Tuesday night, it should be over Puerto Rico," Robert Mitchell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan, said.
Rain bands are expected to move through the area starting Monday night.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, St. Thomas, St. John and the British Virgin Islands were on a tropical storm warning, which means a tropical storm is expected within 24 hours. St. Croix was on a tropical storm watch, meaning tropical storm could strike within 36 hours.
Mitchell said that the northern Virgin Islands will get the outer fringes of tropical storm winds — probably at the lower end of the 40 to 74 mph tropical storm-force range. Harold Baker, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, said the expected wind speed is 40 to 50 mph.
Rainfall is projected at one to three inches.
Hurricane Frances is already at a latitude north of St. Thomas and St. John, but Mitchell pointed out that one slight wobble could bring it closer to the islands. "We're in the cone of error," he said. "It can take a little turn to the left or to the right. It can make a lot of difference and cause a lot of damage."
Hurricane can also unexpectedly increase in intensity.
At 5 p.m. Monday, sustained winds were at 125 mph with gusts to 155 mph and forecasters were expecting the system to gain strength.
At 5 p.m. Hurricane Frances was centered at 19.5 degrees north latitude and 60 degrees west longitude, or about 220 miles east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands. It was moving west at nearly 14 mph. The pressure stood at 948 millibars, or 27.98 inches.
Mitchell said swells should reach two to three feet on Monday night, four to five feet on Tuesday and five to six feet on Wednesday as the storm moves out of the region. He urged all small craft boaters to remain in port throughout the period.
VITEMA is ready, according to Baker. He said emergency service coordinators from various agencies met on Monday to discuss what they'll do if the storm causes problems.
He urged that residents get equally ready by topping off gas tanks, having plans for assisting elderly family members and pets, making sure to have several days' worth of non-perishable food and water on hand, and getting valuables up off the floor if their home is prone to flooding.
Baker also said residents should get rid of debris in their yards that could become windborne and cause damage. And he suggested that residents board up one room of their home to get a jump start, should boarding become necessary, "rather than wait until the last minute." He said residents should monitor the electronic media to keep tabs on how close Hurricane Frances will come to St. Thomas and St. John. St. Croix, located some 40 miles farther south, faces less of a threat than the northern islands.
VITEMA and the Public Works Department are distributing sandbags on St. Thomas at fire stations in Tutu and Charlotte Amalie and at the Public Works Department building in Sub Base; on St. John at the Cruz Bay and Coral Bay fire stations and at the VITEMA and Public Works facility in Susannaberg; and on Water Island at the fire station, as well as from the Water Island Civic Association.
Sand is available on St. Thomas at the Bordeaux, Dorothea, and Tutu fire stations, at the Public Works building in Sub Base and at the National Guard Armory in Nazareth. It's available on St. John at the Cruz Bay and Coral Bay fire stations and the VITEMA/Public Works offices in Susannaberg.
Boaters are advised that the Planning and Natural Resources Department's safe havens are open. They are Benner Bay Lagoon, Mandahl Pond and Flamingo Bay on St. Thomas and Krause Lagoon and Salt River on St. Croix.
Hurricane Hole on St. John, managed by the V.I. National Park, also is open to boaters. Vessels must leave within 72 hours of a storm's passage but boaters may leave their mooring gear in place for the duration of the season.
Cruise ships have already been affected by Hurricane Frances' threat. The Golden Princess had been scheduled to call at St. Thomas on Monday but has rescheduled for Saturday, Edward E. Thomas Sr., chief executive officer of The West Indian Co., said on Monday.
And four ships scheduled to arrive at the WICO dock on Tuesday have headed elsewhere. Thomas said the Carnival Legend planed to make port in Nassau in the Bahamas, the Carnival Triumph is going to the Western Caribbean and the Caribbean Princess has already gone to the Western Caribbean. The Navigator of the Seas is going to visit Antigua instead on Tuesday and then call at St. Thomas on Wednesday.
The Zuiderdam, due at St. Thomas on Wednesday, has not announced any change of schedule. The Paradise, scheduled for Thursday, has gone instead to the Western Caribbean.

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