Forecast track remains similar to earlier today, and because of the size of the storm we might be seeing Hurricane Watches along the coast as early as tonight or tomorrow morning and warnings on Friday. It's still important to watch trends as it moves.
Original Update Hurricane Frances is moving west northwest toward the southern Bahama Islands today. Frances is expected to take a more northwesterly course on Friday toward the central Florida peninsula.
Her winds are currently at 140mph with gusts to 170mph - a Category IV hurricane. While some fluctuation in intensity is likely over the next couple of days, I now expect landfall in the Stuart to Fort Pierce area at 5am on Saturday morning with winds of 145mph gusting to 175mph. [This does not mean people outside this area should let their guard down - mike]
Frances should pass 25 to 30 miles southwest of Melbourne at 4pm Saturday afternoon - winds at that time near the center should be 115mph gusting to 140mph with winds in the Melbourne area and along the beaches at 100mph gusting to 125mph.
The storm should be near Ocala at 11am on Sunday with winds down to 60mph gusting to 75mph at that time. Frances will become a slow moving storm over the peninsula, so expect an extended period of high winds and heavy rain. Flooding conditions can be expected with rainfall amounts of six to ten inches. Rain squalls are likely to continue on Sunday as the hurricane weakens and slowly moves to the north. I'll update this if any significant changes should occur.
I urge you to take necessary actions now in order to prepare for this hurricane.
(Image thanks to Skeetobite)
Although things can change, confidence is starting to go up on this scenario. Check tonight again.
If evacuations were necessary I'd expect to start hearing about them late Thursday or during Friday. Barrier islands along the Florida east coast from maybe as far south as Dade/Broward to north as Volusia could be evacuated, so be aware. Listen to local media and officials at this point. There still is some time for this to change.
The potential for a prolonged period with hurricane conditions is concerning.
Jim Williams over at Hurricane City will be doing live broadcasts about Hurricane Frances startiing tonight at 8PM EST.
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