Aug. 31, 2004 Hurricane Frances' speed — it's now moving west at close to 15 mph — should help keep it from wobbling south toward St. Thomas and St. John, meteorologist Brian Seeley with the National Weather Service in San Juan said Tuesday morning.
"It would have to do something very unlikely," he said.
This is good news for V.I. residents who have spent the last several days worrying that Hurricane Frances would make a direct hit. Instead, those in the territory should feel only the very outer fringes.
Seeley said he expects the storm to be centered 130 to 150 miles northeast of St. Thomas and St. John at 8 a.m. By noon, it should be 130 to 150 miles due north.
Sustained wind velocities are expected to range between 25 to 40 mph, with gusts running anywhere from 40 to even 60 mph.
Seeley said the territory may or may not see tropical storm force winds.
A tropical storm has winds of 39 to 73 mph.
Seeley said the afternoon should see the worst of the rain as Hurricane Frances' tail passes through the area.
He expects one to two inches to fall throughout the day, with some areas getting up to four inches.
Seeley said the hurricane appears to be in an intensification mode. At 5 a.m. Tuesday, the wind speed was 125 mph with gusts hitting 155 mph. This makes it a Category 3 hurricane.
Hurricane Frances was centered at 19.9 degrees north latitude and 62.8 degrees west longitude at 5 a.m., puttting it about 125 miles north of Sint Maarten.
The pressure stood at 949 millibars, or 28.01 inches.
Tropical storm force winds extended outward 175 miles from the center, with hurricane force winds reaching 70 miles from the center.
At 6 a.m., Seeley said Anegada in the British Virgin Islands was feeling the outer bands. At the same time, a rain squall blew through Coral Bay, St. John, and the north side of St. Thomas.
A tropical storm warning remains in effect for St. Thomas, St. John and the British Virgin Islands. St. Croix is on a tropical storm watch.
Hurricane Frances, which at one point reached Category 4 status, is expected to strengthen again as it heads for the Bahamas and the southeast coast of the United States.
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