Hurricane Frances

Hurricane Frances

Infobox Hurricane
Name=Hurricane Frances
Image location=Frances 2004 near Hispaniola.jpg

Formed=August 24, 2004
Dissipated=September 10, 2004
1-min winds=125

Fatalities=7 direct, 42 indirect
Areas=British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, The Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Ohio, and other states, southeast Canada
Hurricane season=2004 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Frances was the sixth named storm, the fourth hurricane, and the third major hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm's maximum sustained wind speeds were 145 mph (230 km/h), giving it a strength of Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The eye passed over San Salvador Island and very close to Cat Island in the Bahamas, and its outer bands also affected Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands.

Frances then passed over the central sections of the state of Florida in the U.S., moved briefly over the Gulf of Mexico on the other side of Florida, and made a second U.S. landfall at the Florida Panhandle. Frances affected the central regions of Florida just three weeks after Hurricane Charley, before it moved northward into Georgia as a tropical depression, and northeast along the spine of the Appalachians. Very heavy rains fell in association with this slow moving hurricane. A total of 49 lives were lost from this hurricane. Damages totaled US$12 billion (2004 dollars).

Meteorological history

A strong tropical wave moved off the west coast of Africa on August 21.Cite web|author=Lawrence|title=TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK|publisher=NHC|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-28|url=] Under the influence of a subtropical ridge,Cite web|author=Beven|title=Hurricane Frances Forecast Discussion #3|publisher=NHC|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-29|url=] it moved westward for several days, remaining disorganized despite favorable conditions.Cite web|author=Stewart|title=TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK|publisher=NHC|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-28|url=] Thunderstorms associated with the wave finally began organizing early on August 24,Cite web|author=Avila|title=TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK|publisher=NHC|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-28|url=] and the system became a tropical depression that evening.Cite web|author=Pasch|title=NHC Public Advisory #1|publisher=NHC|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-28|url=] Good upper-level outflow was observed in all but the eastern quadrants as the depression continued on its path,Cite web|author=Pasch|title=Hurricane Frances Forecast Discussion #2|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-29|url=] and it strengthened to tropical storm status on August 25, approximately convert|1420|mi|km east of the Lesser Antilles.Cite web|author=Beven|title=NHC Public Advisory #4|publisher=NHC|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-28|url=]

Frances briefly ceased strengthening,Cite web|author=Pasch|title=Hurricane Frances Forecast Discussion #5|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-29|url=] but began intensifying on August 26 in a low shear environment as it turned to the west-northwest.Cite web|author=Avila|title=Hurricane Frances Forecast Discussion #6|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-29|url=] It moved steadily west-northwestward and rapidly intensified, developing an eye and reaching hurricane strength late that afternoon.Cite web|author=Stewart|title=Hurricane Frances Forecast Discussion #8|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-29|url=] Frances began moving northwest, under the influence of an upper trough, on August 27.Cite web|author=Stewart|title=Hurricane Frances Forecast Discussion #12|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-30|url=] An upper level anticyclone developed over the system, providing excellent outflow, and Frances continued to strengthen, reaching a peak intensity of convert|135|mi/h|km/h on August 28.Cite web|author=Stewart|title=Hurricane Frances Forecast Discussion #16|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-30|url=] The hurricane turned back to its original westward motion on August 29, as the trough left the area and the subtropical ridge strengthened to Frances' north.Cite web|author=Avila|title=Hurricane Frances Forecast Discussion #19|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-05-30|url=]

Over the next day, the hurricane underwent an eyewall replacement cycle, during which the maximum sustained winds decreased to convert|115|mi/h|km/h.Cite web|author=Beven|title=Hurricane Frances Tropical Cyclone Report|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-06-01|url=] This weakening was short lived, and the storm began to re-intensify during the afternoon of August 30, demonstrating excellent outflow in a low shear environment.Cite web|author=Pasch|title=Hurricane Frances Forecast Discussion #24|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-06-01|url=] The storm continued strengthening as it turned west-northwestward, reaching its peak intensity of convert|145|mi/h|km/h on August 2 while convert|555|mi|km| east-southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida.Cite web|author=Beven|title=Hurricane Frances Public Advisory #33A|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-06-01|url=]

On September 2, Frances struck the Bahamas directly, passing directly over San Salvador Island and very near to Cat Island.The storm moved west northwest and weakened through the day, dropping down to a Category 3 by 2 p.m.This was initially attributed to inner core processes [Cite web|author=Avila|title=Hurricane Frances Discussion #36|publisher=National Hurricane Center|year=2004|accessdate=2008-10-06|url=] ,but increasing westerly shear was later determined to be the cause.National Hurricane Center. [ Tropical Cyclone Report for Frances.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.]

On September 3, Frances weakened slightly as it passed into the vicinity of Abaco Island and directly over Grand Bahama. The storm weakened from a Category 3 to 2 prior to passing over Grand Bahama and also lessened in forward speed. Parts of South Florida began to be affected by squalls and the outer rainbands of the hurricane at this time. Gusts from convert|40|mph|km/h to as high as convert|87|mph|km/h were reported from Jupiter Inlet to Miami.National Hurricane Center. [ Tropical Cyclone Report for Frances.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.]

Frances moved slowly, between convert|5|mph|km/h to convert|10|mph|km/h, as it crossed the warm Gulf Stream between the Bahamas and Florida, leading to fears it could rapidly restrengthen. It remained stable at Category 2 with convert|105|mph|km/h maximum sustained wind and battered the east coast of Florida between Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach for most of September 4. At 11 p.m., the western edge of Frances's eyewall began moving onshore. Because of Frances's large eye of roughly convert|80|mi|km across and slow motion, the center of circulation remained offshore for several more hours. At 1 a.m. EDT on September 5 (0500 UTC), the center of the broad eye of Frances finally was over Florida, on Hutchinson Island, near Sewall's Point, Port Saint Lucie, Stuart, Jensen Beach and Port Salerno, Florida.National Hurricane Center. [ Tropical Cyclone Report for Frances.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.]

Late on September 5, it picked up speed and crossed the Florida Peninsula, emerging over the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa as a tropical storm. After a short trip over water, Frances again struck land near St. Marks, Florida. Frances headed inland, weakening to a tropical depression and causing heavy rainfall over the southern and eastern United States. Tropical Depression Frances continued northeast.National Hurricane Center. [ Tropical Cyclone Report for Frances.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.] United States meteorologists at the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center continued issuing advisories on the remnants of Frances until the system crossed the Canadian border into Quebec, where heavy rainfall continued. [Glenn Lader. [ PUBLIC ADVISORY NUMBER 65 FOR REMNANTS OF FRANCES.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.]


There was the potential for catastrophic damage along Florida's heavily-populated east coast, with warnings that damages from Frances could exceed the insured losses of Hurricane Andrew. [CNN. [ Frances could be most costly storm.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.] These damage estimates were in anticipation that Frances would strike Florida as a strong Category Four hurricane. Preparations for the storm were stepped up in Florida on September 1. Governor Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency, [Bloomberg News. [ Hurricane Frances Strikes Bahamas, Heads Toward Florida's Coast.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.] Kennedy Space Center closed down, [Maggie McKee. [ Hurricane Frances could destroy space shuttles.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.] and evacuations of 500,000 people were initially ordered. Eventually 41 counties received evacuation orders, covering 2.8 million residents, the largest evacuation in Florida's history. [CNN. [ Downgraded Frances blows across Florida.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.]

The state education system also responded to the pending crisis. Many universities across Florida canceled classes. Both the University of Central Florida and the University of North Florida told all students to leave their dorms. Evacuation at the University of South Florida was performed on a dorm-by-dorm basis. Florida Atlantic University was closed for a week and a half. Most schools were shut down from southern Miami-Dade County to just south of Melbourne two days before the hurricane. The annual Florida State University-University of Miami college football game was rescheduled for the following week. [ [ Hurricane Frances Update - Sunday 12 NOON.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.]


The economic effect was felt early, as the storm struck during Labor Day weekend, traditionally the final summer vacation weekend in the United States. [Associated Press. [ Hurricane Frances floods streets, knocks out power as it crosses Florida.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.] Many hotel reservations from South Carolina to Florida were cancelled as people, seeing the destruction caused weeks earlier by Hurricane Charley, decided to avoid the coastal areas for safety. One death in the Bahamas, one in Ohio, and five in Florida were directly attributed to the storm. 42 more deaths - 32 in Florida, eight in Georgia, one in the Bahamas and one in Ohio, are indirectly attributed to Frances.


About 75% of the island chain lost power for a few hours during the storm. Damage was mainly confined to downed trees and wooden homes. Several feet of water flooded the international airport at Freeport. [Joseph B. Treaster. [ HURRICANE FRANCES: THE BAHAMAS; Damage Is Mostly Light as Storm Pelts Island Chain.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.] In the Bahamas, insurers and reinsurers estimated industry insured losses at about $300 million. [Guy Carpenter. [ Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan & Jeanne Caribbean Impact.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.] Like with other hurricane-induced damage, to get the total damage in the area, the insured damage is multiplied by a factor of 2, which comes out to $600 million.


Some areas of Florida received over convert|13|in|mm of rain during the slow onslaught.David Roth. [ Hurricane Frances Rainfall.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.] Similar to Hurricane Charley earlier in the month, the Florida citrus crops took large amounts of damage. Frances caused heavy damage to the large Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center, ripping off over a thousand 4-by-10 foot aluminum panels used to clad the building. While Charley caused $700,000 damage, Frances caused much more. Two external fuel tanks for the space shuttle were in the building but seem undamaged. The Space Shuttle Discovery's hangar was without power. [CNN. [ Frances tears panels from NASA shuttle hangar.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.] The total damage to space and military facilities around Cape Canaveral, Florida was reported at about $100 million. Orlando, Florida's theme parks closed Sunday — [ [ What's New Archive 2004.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.] only the third time Walt Disney World closed for a hurricane, but the second time in a month. [Brendan Farrington. [ Dangerous Hurricane Charley Poised to Pound Florida .] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.] In the aftermath of the storm, many colleges and school districts remained closed. President George W. Bush declared all of Florida a federal disaster area. [State of Florida State Emergency Response Team. [ HURRICANE FRANCESDISASTER ASSISTANCE BRIEFING SHEET As of 9:00 a.m., September 9, 2004.] Retrieved on 2008-09-30.]

Elsewhere across the United States

Frances dropped significant rain on Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and North and South Carolina. The passage of tropical depression Frances into Georgia dumped up to convert|5|in|mm of rain onto the state and caused the closings of schools in 56 counties. Flooding was reported even in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast states, particularly along the Appalachian Mountains. A strip of upslope-induced rainfall along the Blue Ridge escarpment produced as much as convert|23|in|mm of rain in some areas of western North Carolina as the warm tropical air surged up and over the mountains.David Roth. [ Hurricane Frances Rainfall.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.] The flooding from this along the Swannanoa River near Asheville, North Carolina caused a major break in the Asheville's water distribution system, leaving the city without water for several days. Frances also spawned 101 tornadoes from Florida to as far north as Virginia, shy of the single storm tornado record set during Hurricane Beulah.John L. Beven II. [ Hurricane Frances.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.] Power outages affected up to six million people. Over 20 airports closed during the storm.

The total civilian damage from Frances was determined to be approximately US$8,830,000,000 (2004 dollars). Add in the estimated US$100 million damage (2004 dollars) done to space and military facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida and the total damage was estimated to be about US$9 billion (2004 dollars), making it the fourth costliest hurricane in United States history at that time, behind Hurricane Andrew of 1992 and Hurricanes Charley and Ivan of 2004.John L. Beven II. [ Hurricane Frances.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.] At the time, adjusted for inflation, it became the seventh costliest hurricane for the lower 48 United States. [National Hurricane Center. [ 3b. The thirty costliest mainland United States tropical cyclones, 1900-2004.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.]


As an extratropical storm, Frances passed through southern Ontario. The storm dropped up to 5.39 inches/137 mm rainfall, [Environment Canada Weather Statement. [ Ontario Weather Review - September 2004.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.] washing out roads and causing localized flooding in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. This rainfall smashed all-time rainfall records in a 24-hour period (most of the rain fell in a 6 to 8 hour-period. Ottawa's O-Train transit rail was halted because of a landslide that obstructed the railroad corridor. Several major roads in Gatineau and Ottawa were under several inches of water, locally chest-high. More than $45 million Canadian/US$41 million in insured damage was reported in Ontario. [World Meteorological Organization. [ Twenty-Seventh Session RA-IV Hurricane Committee.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08.]


Because of its effects in the United States, the name Frances was retired in the spring of 2005 by the World Meteorological Organization and will never be used again for an Atlantic hurricane. It was replaced with Fiona for the 2010 season. Initially, the WMO planned to retire the name after the 2004 season anyway, following a request from France during the WMO meeting in spring 2003, [World Meteorological Organization. [ RA IV Hurricane Committee: Final Report of the Twenty-Fifth Session.] Retrieved on 2007-04-08 via Wayback Machine.] but the destruction caused by Frances was cause enough for retirement on its own merit.

ee also

* List of Atlantic hurricanes
* List of Florida hurricanes (2000-present)
* List of retired Atlantic hurricane names
* Hurricane Frances tornado outbreak


External links

* [ NHC Tropical Cyclone Report on Hurricane Frances]
* [ NHC advisory archive on Hurricane Frances]
* [ HPC rainfall report on Frances]
* [ State of Florida - Hurricane Frances preparedness]
* [ Florida Division of Emergency Management - Hurricane Frances]
* [ Hurricane news coverage and resources]

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