Miami’s National Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Frances’ sustained wind speeds of have weakened somewhat, and the storm’s forward motion has slowed; however the NHC warned that Frances is “still a dangerous category three hurricane.”
Frances continues to move toward the west-northwest at around 9-mph (14 km/hr). “Some decrease in forward speed is expected during the next 24 hours,” said the NHC “Sustained winds are now near 120 mph (195 km/hr) with higher gusts. Frances is still a strong category three hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are possible during the next 24 hours. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 80 miles (130 km) from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 185 miles (295 km).”
The storm continued to move near or over the central Bahamas this morning, and is expected to hit the Northwestern Bahamas later today. At the rate Frances is moving hurricane force winds would strike the Florida coast by Saturday afternoon.
Despite Frances’ slowing and weakening, a hurricane warning – i.e. hurricane force winds are anticipated within the next 24 hours – remains in effect for the Florida East Coast from Florida City Northward to Flagler Beach, including Lake Okeechobee. The coastal area runs from just above the Keys to north of Daytona Beach, a distance of over 300 miles.
A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch are in effect for the middle and upper Florida Keys from south of Florida City to the seven-mile bridge, including Florida Bay.
The NHC bulletin noted that the “eye of hurricane Frances was located by reconnaissance aircraft and radar near latitude 24.7 north- longitude 75.7 west or near the northern end of Cat Island. This is also about 310 miles (495 km) east-southeast of the Florida lower East Coast.
In addition to the high winds storm surge flooding of 6 to 14 feet above normal tide levels, along with large and dangerous battering waves, “can be expected near the eye of Frances on the West Side of Eleuthera Island and on the north side of Grand Bahama Island. Storm surge flooding of 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels can be expected on the West Side of the other islands of the Bahamas.”
The NHC expects coastal storm surge flooding along the Florida coast to be between 6 to 11 feet above normal tide levels along with large and dangerous battering waves. It also predicts rainfall amounts of 7 to 12 inches locally, but “as high as 20 inches are possible in association with Frances.”
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