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Hurricane Frances - Monday - August 30, 2004 - 9:30 PM
FRANCES CONTINUES WESTWARD REMAINS A U.S. THREAT IN 5 - 6 DAYS
CURRENTLY: Frances continues westward (275 degrees) at 15 mph. This motion is expected for the next 12-24 hours with a slightly more north of due west motion likely beyond 24 hours.
Frances will pass about 75-100 miles north of Anguilla early Tuesday morning. Squalls and very rough surf will affect the northern islands and Puerto Rico for the next 18-24 hours. Various watches and warnings are posted….please see latest TPC statements.
Frances has been in a near steady intensity state for the last 24 hours. That may be about to change. It appears to me a concentric eyewall cycle is about completed. Frances is now moving over very warm water, outflow is very well established, shear is low and Frances has a well developed anti-cyclone overhead. What all this means is that Frances is poised to become very strong over the next 48-60 hours. Latest ships is near 150 mph in 48-60 hours and I see no reason to argue with this. Make no mistake, Frances is an extremely well developed tropical cyclone and the potential for substantial intensification exists.
INTENSITY: As stated above Frances has the potential to become very intense over the next 48-60 hours.
LONGER RANGE INTENSITY: Gets tricky here and the stakes are very high. In my short early morning update I stated I thought a 100-125 mph hurricane was possible at landfall in the SC/NC area. This was based on a few things…not the least of which is that the waters off SC are well churned up from the recent passage of Gaston. That combined with some shear would help to weaken Frances if it approached the SC coast.
However…..if Frances takes a more southern track and attempts to make a landfall in Florida…it is possible we could have a 140 mph+ plus hurricane at landfall. Water temps over the immediate offshore water of Florida are in the upper 80's…in fact I saw a report of a 90 degree reading from a buoy just southeast of Miami.
Also of some note, while Frances is not exactly a tiny storm now in terms of circulation, she could expand beyond 48 hours into a large and intense hurricane….similar to Floyd (99) and Gloria (85) as they passed they tracked in the general vicinity of the Bahamas.
Bottom line…Frances still looks poised to become very intense once again and it is possible that if she does indeed track towards central or south Florida she could maintain a Cat 4 status. If she were to track toward SC I feel fairly certain she would come in at a low 3. Not to much consolation to folks there I'm sure.
Track to 84 hours: My track through 72 hours is a little south of the official TPC track. Frances will pass north of the islands overnight tonight and north of Puerto Rico by about 125 miles tomorrow evening…from there I expect Frances to pass very near Grand Turk in the southeast Bahamas Wednesday evening…then to very near or just east of Nassau in the Bahamas Friday Afternoon.
Longer Range beyond 84 hours:
Here is where the sweat will start to drip from Floridians brows.
In my early morning post I was breathing a little easier for Florida, but it is harder to do that this evening. Model guidance is getting more tightly clustered near Florida. I strongly believe Frances will be trying to move up around a forecast weakness in the sub-tropical ridge.
Where this turn begins will make all the difference in the world for Florida.
Right now my best forecast has to be for the center of Frances to pass from near or just east of Nassau..then scrape up along the Fl east coast from near West Palm Beach up to near Daytona…the center could move up along the coast or it could cross in at any point along the way. From there would expect a bend more to the NW or NNW toward GA and SC…again, I can't yet say if it will be just inland or just offshore as it makes that approach.
This is the best the science will allow that far out….we're talking 96-108 hours….and a difference of 50-100 miles onshore or offshore the FL east coast is going to make a world of difference.
Model guidance ranges from the ECMWF making a direct hit near Miami and then moving up to near Tampa then to the panhandle….to the NOGAPS and GFDL with a more direct threat to SC…most other guidance is tightly clustered in between.
Suffice to say….the threat for U.S. landfall is becoming more real by the hour. If you live along the FL east coast from Miami north to Cape Lookout NC please stay tuned. Folks in Florida should use tomorrow to start basic preparation measures….as the "mad rush" for supplies down there could get underway quickly.
The S.E. coast is faced with a potentially very dangerous situation….please stay tuned.
Updates will be issued as needed….around noon and 6:00 p.m. tomorrow…then a full update about 10:00 p.m.