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Hurricane Frances Chase

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Hurricane Frances surf shots at Luquillo, Puerto Rico, August 31st 2004

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Hurricane Frances Jupiter Island, Florida, September 4th-5th 2004

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Chase Summary:

The hurricane Frances Chase, my first "real" hurricane chase was a very unique experience, to travel to another place to see a hurricane and it marked my beginnings as a storm chaser. Frances was a classic Cape Verde type hurricane that passed just north of the Northeast Caribbean islands as a category 4 hurricane and hit the Bahamas as a weakening category 3 before weakening further to category 2 intensity when it made landfall in Martin-Palm Beach counties in Florida. Before experiencing the storm in Florida, hurricane Frances made a close approach to Puerto Rico where tropical storm warnings had to be issued. Frances passed around 115 miles north of Puerto Rico the afternoon of August 31st as a category 4 hurricane with winds of 140mph. I took some very heavy surf pictures and video in Luquillo, Puerto Rico as the storm was at its CPA to the island. After the storm bypassed Puerto Rico, the forecasts of a South Florida landfall of this hurricane were increasing, talking with the storm chaser and friend Jim Leonard I decided to make a try and head out to Florida to intercept the storm. I arrived to Miami late on September 2nd and met there with Jim Leonard, as I took the last flight out of San Juan to there before cancellations began, the storm was over the Central Bahamas and outer bands were starting to affect the coast in Florida.

Late on September 3rd it was very clear that the storm will make landfall in the area between West Palm Beach and Vero Beach so we headed north to West Palm Beach, during 36 hours beginning late in the 3rd, tropical storm conditions affected the area, hurricane conditions started in the morning of the 4th and lasted for around 18 hours we estimate, hurricane Frances at this point was a large and slow-moving category 2 hurricane (105mph) and at times the storm was nearly stationary just offshore. We were waiting for the eye to come onshore all day long September 4th under steady hurricane force winds in the Jupiter Island area. The photos shown up were taken in Jupiter Island during the daylight hours of September 4th prior to the arrival of the eyewall of the storm in the night. Winds were gusting in the 90-105mph range at the time of the pictures. After sunset the eyewall finally came ashore bringing heavy rain and winds probably gusting up to 120 mph. We stayed in that area in the border of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, mostly in extreme Northern Jupiter Island until the eye moved over our area were we measured a pressure of 962 mb at around 10 pm EDT September 4th. Then we moved back to our hotel on I-95 in Northern Palm Beach County were we experienced the eastern eyewall of the storm at around 4 am EDT September 5th. Winds were quite strong but it was at the middle of the night and all artificial light left was gone. The damage pictures were taken in that area after sunrise that day. This chase wouldn't have been possible with the help of Jim Leonard, I also documented this storm in company of storm chaser Karl Hoarau from France. The video of the hurricane Frances chase is avaiable, for more information contact me.

All images above except satellite pictures: Copyrights © José M. García