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Hurricane Frances - Tuesday - August 31, 2004 - 9:30 PM


CURRENTLY: Frances is a spectacular hurricane with a text book satellite presentation. They just don't get much better looking than this. A solid ring of deep/cold convection around the eye, perfect symmetry. Latest vortex message from recon states "spectacular stadium effect". Pressure is down to 939 mbs. This is intensification should come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading here….I've been calling for it for a solid week.

Frances continues on the W.N.W. track that was established late morning/early afternoon….current motion is 285-290 at 15 mph. This motion with more northward component over time will continue for the next 24-48 hours.

Frances passed about 85 miles north of Anguilla early today and about 140 miles north of Puerto Rico late this afternoon / early evening….right on track and right on schedule.

INTENSITY: Frances is a strong Cat 4 hurricane and it would not surprise me in the least if she broke into Cat 5 range (155 mph+) over the next 24-36 hours. The eye diameter is 26 miles wide and it will take a little time for that to contract and be replaced.

Water is very warm, shear is low and Frances has a well established anti-cyclone overhead that she is helping to maintain.

LONGER RANGE INTENSITY: The will be intensity fluctuations over the next 3-5 days as eye wall replacement cycles / concentric eye wall cycles take place. Suffice to say Frances will be a major Cat 3 hurricane or higher at time of landfall. The water off the coast of Florida is very warm, shear is only fcst to increase slightly and conditions aloft look very favorable to maintain a Cat 3+ right up until landfall. At this point it will depend in Frances is pulsing up or down at time of landfall.

Track to 72 hours: My track through 48 hours continues to be slightly left (or south of official TPC track)..really there has been little change in my thinking since this time last night. I was a little more optimistic for a slight more rightward adjustment this morning…but trends today and latest model consensus is more in line with my Monday night posting. Only real change is to speed up the forward motion a bit. Expect a track over or just to the right of Grand Turk Island Wednesday afternoon….then about 40 miles or so east of Nassau in the Bahamas by Friday evening.

Longer Range beyond 72 hours:

Still some uncertainty but here is my best forecast as of right now.

Actually the final forecast will likely vary by not more than 100 miles from this track…..but 50 miles either side of my line is an eternity if you have to live through this…and will make a big difference where the worse effects are felt.

Frances will still be trying to find the weakness near the western edge of the sub-tropical ridge…but this turn may now be too late to spare Florida. I have been leaving the possibilities open as long as possible so as not to give one area a false sense of security and causing panic in another.

Right now my best forecast has to be for the center of Frances to pass from near or just east of Nassau…..then up over Freeport or just to the west of Freeport…..then scrape up along the Fl east coast from near West Palm Beach to Melbourne….coming inland somewhere in between those two points on a general NW heading…Saturday morning or early afternoon.

Frances would then continue NW bisecting the state to a position west of Gainsville and east of Tallahassee by Sunday morning or early afternoon.

If you live along the east coast of Florida from Miami to Jacksonville please pay close attention to further updates. Preparations to protect life and property should begin tomorrow if they have not begun already.

Again, Frances will be making landfall as a Cat 3 (115 mph) + hurricane.

Hurricane watches will likely be hoisted for a good chunk of the Florida east coast within the next 24-36 hours.

If my general track thinking is correct a large portion of the east coast of Florida could be raked by strong onshore winds of storm to hurricane force along with battering waves at the beaches. The worst conditions will be felt near and to the right of where the center crosses the coast.

More tomorrow……