Aug. 30, 2004 With Hurricane Frances now getting closer, a hurricane watch was posted late Sunday night for St. Thomas, St. John and the British Virgin Islands. This means hurricane conditions could hit the areas noted within 36 hours.
"With the system tracking almost due west, there is some concern that if it gets nearer the islands there could be worse conditions than expected," Brian Seeley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, said early Monday morning.
The storm is expected to pass 120 to 160 miles north of St. Thomas and St. John around mid-day Tuesday. St. Croix's position 40 miles south of her sister islands puts the bigger island in a safer spot.
The wind speed seen in the territory will depend on how close the storm comes, but forecasters currently expect the northern Virgin Islands to receive winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph as the storm passes.
Hurricane Frances is already at a latitude north of St. Thomas and St. John. The islands' coordinates are 18.3 degrees north latitude and 65 degrees west longitude for St. Thomas and 18.2 degrees north latitude and 64.5 degrees west longitude for St. John but one little course deviation could bring it closer.
"We're worried that a last-second wobble could bring stronger winds down to the territory. It's already too close for comfort," Seeley said.
The hurricane's winds have decreased from 135 mph on Sunday to 120 mph with gusts of 150 mph.
"The hurricane hunters were out," Seeley said.
The updated wind speed makes it a Category 3 hurricane instead of Sunday's Category 4. However, forecasters expect the storm to gain strength.
As of 8 a.m. Monday, Hurricane Frances is centered at 19.2 degrees north latitude and 58.1 degrees west longitude. This puts it about 265 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands.
It is moving west at 12 mph.
The pressure stands at 956 millibars or 28.22 inches.
Hurricane force winds extend out 85 miles, with tropical storm force winds reaching outward 125 miles.
Seeley said that St. Croix now on a high surf advisory and coastal flood watch for north and east coasts. One will be posted for St. Thomas and St. John for the northwest and northeast coasts later tonight.
He said Virgin Islands residents should expect rainy weather to start on Monday morning, with more frequent rain bands passing through the area as the day progresses. Three to six inches of rain is possible.
Tropical storm warnings are up for Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten. Warnings mean a tropical storm is expected within 24 hours.
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