Hurricane Frances threatens Florida

PALM BEACH, Fla. – Just as Florida’s marinas and boatyards have begun cleaning up from the last hurricane, they are now bracing to be hit by a second Category 4 Hurricane as Hurricane Frances bears down on the state. It could make landfall as early as Saturday, although where is anyone’s guess.

That uncertainty could translate into a lot of lost business whether the storm eventually hits the state or not, according to a story in today’s Palm Beach Post.

With the Labor Day weekend approaching, some cancellations have already begun to trickle in to hotels in the Palm Beach area, the Post reported.

The 50-room Pirates Cove Resort in Port Salerno lost four reservations because the weekend figures to be rainy and windy even if the storm stays off shore.

“People who like to do a lot of boating and fishing aren’t going to be able to realistically accomplish that plan,” General Manager Gary Guertin told the newspaper.

The Breakers resort in Palm Beach fielded calls from guests intending to cancel, said David Burke, director of sales and marketing. But the hotel persuaded many callers to hold off by relaxing its cancellation policy from three days to one.

A five-day forecast predicted that Frances is most likely to hit the U.S. coast at Vero Beach, Fla., at about 2 a.m. Saturday, a Reuters story reported today.

But the five-day forecast also indicated that a weakening of the storm’s speed and steering currents mean that is does have the potential to wander, and could strike as far west as the Mississippi-Alabama border or as far east as the North Carolina coast, Reuters reported.

The Hurricane’s center was about 780 miles east-southeast of Palm Beach and moving to the west-northwest at 17 mph as of 8 a.m. local time this morning, according to Reuters.

The storm’s sustained winds are as strong as those measured for Hurricane Charley before the storm hit Florida’s west coast last month.

Frances is a Category 4 storm, one step down from the most powerful hurricane as measured by the five-step Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Category 4 hurricanes, with winds of 131 mph (211 kph) to 155 mph, cause the ocean to surge by as much as 18 feet and are capable of blowing down walls and tearing off roofs, according to the news agency.

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