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Hurricane Frances - Friday - September 3, 2004 - 9:30 PM


CURRENTLY: Frances has proved once again how difficult intensity forecasting is. Shear, albeit it weak, and some mid level dry air have served to steadily reduce the intensity of Frances over the last 24 hours. Central core convection has been trying very hard to persist today but with the weak shear and dry air has not been successful.

At this hour convection has gotten robust again but it remains to be seen if it persists. Lowest pressure just in from recon is 960 mbs….max sustained winds are near 105 mph. I would not expect much more reduction prior to landfall…if anything it remains a possibility that Frances tightens up again and winds get back to 115-120….but that is the absolute max I would suspect. If is often very difficult for a hurricane that has expanded so much in areal coverage and has a loose inner core to re-group.

So, my call on landfall intensity would have to now be 105-120 mph…or strong Cat 2…to perhaps a weak Cat 3.

Frances is basically drifting W.N.W. to N.W. (300-305 degrees) at a painfully slow 4 mph. Expect this general motion pretty much up until landfall…perhaps a slightly faster forward motion by later tomorrow afternoon or evening.

Frances remains a very large hurricane with a very large wind field. Heavy swells and wave action will start reaching the s.e. U.S. coast over the next 12 hours or so.

INTENSITY: Covered above.

Track: No changes from update 24 hours ago…expect to move the track about 25 miles to the left.

Right now I am anticipating landfall between Fort Pierce and Melbourne Saturday afternoon or evening.

Once Frances landfalls expect a slow (9-12 mph) track up to in between Lakeland and Orlando..up toward to Tallahassee then into s.w. Ga.

Model guidance has become very tightly clustered along the above path.

Effects: Frances will be a slow mover across the state of Florida moving at about ½ the speed of Charley. Rainfall totals of 12-18" are possible, if not likely along the track of the hurricane. Inland flooding could be serious.

Strong winds will sweep over a large portion of the state and power outages will be VERY widespread…some areas that were affected by Charley will again be affected.

Surge…expect 8-12' surge near and to the right of where the center crosses.

Battering waves will affect a large portion of the Florida east coast…well away from the landfall location…this will likely be a long duration event with moderate to severe beach erosion.

Conditions near and to the right of the landfall location will experience the worst…6-10 foot surge and winds of up to 115 mph…especially in gusts. Damage will be extensive and widespread. Because Frances will be moving slowly the winds will last a longer than normal period of time over a given location. Strong winds will spread well inland as Frances bisects the state.

Main threat is fast becoming flooding rain as Frances moves very slowly across the state. Strongest winds will be near the inner core and just to the right of where it landfalls…strong winds inland will cause widespread power outages. So really I'm expecting structural damage to be MUCH less than with Charley….but I think flooding will be the main story when all is said and done.

Once again a weakening hurricane will spare the U.S. disaster on an epic scale….the damage caused by a 100-115 mph hurricane can't be compared to a 140-145 mph hurricane. So Frances will not be the "big one" for south/central Florida…but still it will be bad enough….just not as bad as it could have been. This is one reason I was not going hog wild with predictions of damage, death and destruction….just because you have a Cat 4 hurricane aimed at you from 3-4 days out does not mean it will reach the coast at that intensity….It can but it dosen't have to.

I will try and post tomorrow evening by 10:00….but I will be out of town and I'm not sure if time will allow.


Please refer to official statements from TPC and local weather services offices for official information. Please obey all evacuation orders as issued by local emergency service offices.