Event Summary
     National Weather Service, Raleigh NC


Hurricane Frances, September 2004
Updated 2004/10/18



Satellite Image of Hurricane Frances on 2004/09/01 at 1121Z - Click to enlarge
(Click on the image to enlarge.)



Event Headlines

...Hurricane Frances was the 6th named storm of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season...
...Four of the first six named storms have affected North Carolina...
...Hurricane Frances first made landfall near Sewall’s Point, FL, then moved west across the central Florida peninsula while weakening to a Tropical Storm. The Tropical Storm then reemerged into the northeast Gulf of Mexico just north of Tampa, FL, then made a second landfall at Saint Mark’s, FL, in the Florida Panhandle region. The Tropical Storm weakened to a Depression near Albany, GA, then moved slowly north across central and northeast Georgia, the mountains of extreme western North Carolina and southwest Virginia, West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, and New York...
...Rain bands associated with Frances produced several tornadoes over the Piedmont and Sandhills of North Carolina...
...A swath of 5 to 15 inches of rain fell across the North Carolina Mountains and Foothills. There were reports of 12 to 15 inches of rain along the higher terrain with isolated reports in excess of 18 inches...
...Severe flooding and damage resulted in many Mountain counties...
...Several fatalities in North Carolina were directly related to the storm...



Overview

Frances developed into a Tropical Depression over the eastern Atlantic Ocean, 800 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands on Tuesday morning, August 24, 2004. The system was moving west at 17 MPH and had maximum sustained winds of 30 MPH. Frances became a Tropical Storm late on Wednesday, August 25, 2004, approximately 1400 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. Frances was moving west at 17 MPH with maximum sustained winds of 40 MPH.

Frances became the 4th Hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season at 500 PM, Thursday, August 26, 2004, 1000 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles. Maximum sustained winds had increased to 75 MPH, with a minimum pressure of 983 MB.

Frances strengthened into the third major Hurricane in the Atlantic basin this year at 500 PM, Friday, August 27, 2004. Frances reached this Category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with maximum winds of 115 MPH, while located 800 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Frances became the second Category 4 Hurricane in the Atlantic Basin at 500 PM, Saturday, August 28, 2004, 700 miles east of the Leeward Islands. The pressure had fallen to 948 MB, and maximum sustained winds increased to 135 MPH.

Frances weakened slightly to a Category 3 Hurricane on Sunday, August 29, 2004. The Hurricane tracked within 150 miles of the northern Leeward Islands late on August 30, 2004, packing winds of 125 MPH.

Frances regained Category 4 status by late afternoon on August 31, 2004, 145 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Frances made a direct hit on the Turks and Caicos Islands as a category 4 hurricane on September 1, 2004. The hurricane passed 35 miles north of Grand Turk, with maximum sustained winds of 125 MPH and a minimum pressure of 938 MB.

The southeast, central, and northwestern Bahamas felt the full brunt of Frances as the storm slowly moved across the Bahamas between Thursday, September 2 and Saturday, September 4, 2004. Frances weakened from a Category 4 to a Category 3 storm as the hurricane passed over San Salvador, Eleuthra Island, and very close to Freeport, Grand Bahamas.

Frances finally made landfall near Sewall’s Point, FL, around 100 AM, on Sunday, September 5, 2004 as a Category 2 storm. The winds were sustained at 105 MPH at landfall with a minimum central pressure of 960 MB. Frances moved west-northwest across east-central Florida early Sunday morning. Frances was downgraded to a Tropical Storm at 500 PM, September 5, 2004, 20 miles east of Tampa.

Frances emerged into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico at around 1100 PM, just north of Tampa, on September 5, 2004. Frances regained Tropical Storm status as it moved across the northeast Gulf of Mexico on September 6, 2004. The storm made a second landfall at Saint Mark’s, FL, at 200 PM, September 6, 2004, with maximum sustained winds of 65 MPH.

Frances weakened rapidly and was downgraded to a depression as it moved north-northwest across southwestern Georgia on Monday evening, September 6, 2004. The system remained at tropical depression status as it moved slowly across Georgia on Tuesday, September 7, 2004.

The remnants of Frances moved into the southwestern Mountains of North Carolina during the early morning hours of Wednesday, September 8, 2004. The storm center then tracked north along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, northeastern Tennessee, and southwestern Virginia during the remainder of September 8, 2004. Strong gusty winds between 40 and 60 MPH buffeted the Appalachian Mountains. Numerous trees were downed and flooding was widespread. Rainfall amounts reached as much as 10 to 15 inches in portions of the higher mountains from Transylvania and Macon Counties northeast to Yancey and Mitchell Counties. Severe flooding occurred along several creeks in the city of Asheville where numerous streets, several businesses, and houses were flooded.

As the depression moved across Georgia and western North Carolina Tuesday and Wednesday, the Piedmont and Sandhills of North Carolina remained in the warm sector of the storm. Several rain bands produced torrential rainfall, local damaging winds, and several tornadoes. Several weak tornadoes produced minor damage to trees and buildings over Anson, Hoke, Moore, Lee, Orange, and Harnett Counties. The strongest tornado in central North Carolina damaged a home on Rye Road in Hoke County, downed numerous trees, destroyed a car, and damaged the roof of a house.


Additional Details

Additional details may become available at the NWS offices directly affected by the storm...
The National Weather Service Wilmington
The National Weather Service Greenville/Spartanburg
The National Weather Service Blacksburg





Frances's Track


Hurricane Frances Track

Hurricane Frances developed in the eastern tropical Atlantic and followed a west-northwest to northwest course during its march across the ocean. Frances turned westward while passing just north of Puerto Rico and then resumed a west-northwest track. This track brought Frances over the Turks and Caicos Islands and then across the Bahamas.

The general west-northwest motion brought Frances onshore over the east coast of Florida and then across central Florida. Frances made a turn toward the northwest and then north after reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The storm then moved onshore again on the Florida panhandle and continued a gradual turn to the north and then northeast. The remnants of Frances moved northeast along the spine of the Appalachians into the Northeastern United States.

Hurricane Frances Track Broad View
Hurricane Frances Track - Click to enlarge
(Click on the image to enlarge.)



Detailed Hurricane Frances Track
Hurricane Frances Track - Click to enlarge
(Click on the image to enlarge.)







Maps of Precipitation Totals and Severe Weather Reports from Hurricane Frances


Precipitation Totals from Hurricane Frances

The map below contains precipitation totals during the period in which Frances impacted North Carolina (from 800 AM EDT on Monday, September 9 through 800 AM EDT on Thursday, September 9).

Frances dropped between 6 and 10 inches of rain across much of western North Carolina with amounts exceeding a foot of rain in several sections of the mountains with a few isolated reports of rainfall totals in excess of 18 inches. Rainfall amounts dropped dramatically further east across the Foothills and Piedmont. Across eastern North Carolina, rainfall amounts averaged between 1 and 2 inches.

Maximum wind gusts from Hurricane Frances




Severe Weather Reports from Hurricane Frances

The map below contains severe weather reports received by the National Weather Service during the period in which Frances impacted North Carolina (from 800 AM EDT on Monday, September 9 through 800 AM EDT on Thursday, September 9).


Severe Weather Reports from Hurricane Frances






Severe Weather Potential on Tuesday, September 7, 2004


Frances was responsible for two days of high severe weather potential. The first day on Tuesday, September 7, 2004, resulted in numerous tornado touch downs across far southern and southeastern North Carolina. Columbus, Robeson, and Mecklenburg Counties reported most of the tornado touch downs. Tornadoes were also reported in Hoke and Anson counties.

A second day of severe weather occurred on Wednesday, September 8, 2004. Details on the atmospheric environment on September 8 are shown in the next section.

The remnants of Frances moved slowly north across western Georgia during the early afternoon through evening of Tuesday, September 7, 2004. A surface boundary that stretched from east to west across central South Carolina early in the afternoon moved slowly north toward southern North Carolina during the late afternoon and evening hours. An influx of warm moist air from the gulf stream continued throughout the day. The visible satellite image at midday (1203 PM EDT or 1603Z) showed a few breaks in the cloudiness across southeastern North Carolina. The breaks and thinning of the cloud cover allowed enough surface heating for the atmosphere to destabilize with CAPE values approaching or slightly exceeding 1000 J/Kg. Strong low level shear with 0-3 km Storm Relative Helicity values in excess of 300 units was persistent east of the center of Francis and especially along and north of the east-west boundary across South Carolina. In this environment, numerous mini-supercell thunderstorms with fairly persistent low-level rotation developed across northeastern South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina. There were several reports of tornadoes.


Regional Radar Loop from Tuesday, September 7, 2004
Regional radar loop of base reflectivity imagery from 624 AM EDT (1024Z) Tuesday, September 7, 2004 through 524 AM EDT (924Z) Wednesday, September 8, 2004.




NWS Composite Reflectivity Imagery from 2024Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004 (424 PM EDT).
The composite reflectivity imagery shows the numerous convective cells across northeastern South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina. Many of these thunderstorms developed into mini-supercells with several reports of tornadoes.

SPC Analysis at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004.





Analyzed mean sea level pressure (black) and surface wind barbs from SPC at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004 (4 PM EDT).
The circulation center is located across western Georgia.

SPC Analysis at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004.



Analyzed surface temperatures (red), dewpoints (green), and wind barbs from SPC at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004 (4 PM EDT).
Note that the warmest temperatures (red) are located across far eastern North Carolina with an axis of higher dewpoints (green) in the lower to mid 70s extending from south to north across the Coastal Plain of North Carolina.

SPC Analysis at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004.



300 MB wind barbs (brown), 300 MB isotachs (red) and analyzed 300 MB divergence (purple) from SPC at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004 (4 PM EDT).
Note the area of maximum divergence at 300 MB across eastern South Carolina which extends into eastern North Carolina.

SPC Analysis at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004.



0-3 Km Storm Relative Helicity (blue) and storm motion (brown) from SPC at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004 (4 PM EDT).
Note the area of greatest Storm Relative Helicity across South Carolina which diminish across southern and eastern North Carolina.

SPC Analysis at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004.



Surface based CAPE values from SPC at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004 (4 PM EDT).
Note the area of greatest CAPE across the southern coastal area of South Carolina with an axis of enhanced CAPE extending north along the South Carolina and North Carolina coast.

SPC Analysis at 20Z on Tuesday, September 7, 2004.






Severe Weather Potential on Wednesday September 8, 2004


Frances was responsible for two days of high severe weather potential. The first day on September 7 resulted in numerous tornado touch downs in far southern and southeastern North Carolina. Details on the atmospheric environment on September 7 are shown in the previous section.

A second day of severe weather on Wednesday, September 8, 2004, produced fewer tornadoes and fewer reports of damage, but still several reports of severe weather. Tornado touch downs were reported in Lee, Moore, and Northampton Counties with wind damage reported in Rockingham County.

The remnants of Frances were located over eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina late in the morning of Wednesday, September 8, 2004. The 12Z RAOB at KGSO showed a nearly saturated atmosphere across central North Carolina with a 0-3 Km Storm Relative Helicity of about 200-300 units and a CAPE of around 700 J/Kg. The very moist and buoyant atmosphere was supportive of deep convective development. Significant breaks in the cloudiness were noted across central and eastern North Carolina by late morning. Increasing amounts of sunshine along with a northward advection of dewpoints in the mid to upper 70s destabilized the atmosphere across central and eastern North Carolina where CAPE values ranged from 1500 J/Kg across central NC to 3000 J/KG across eastern NC. Low level shear values were gradually decreasing across central North Carolina as the center of the remnants of Francis moved northward. The wind profile gradually changed during morning and afternoon as the shear became more unidirectional, supporting the development of lines of thunderstorms as opposed to supercells. There were a few reports of tornadoes and severe weather across central North Carolina on September 7.


Regional Radar Loop from Wednesday September 8, 2004
Regional radar loop of base reflectivity imagery on Wednesday, September 8, 2004 from 413 AM EDT (813Z) through 824 PM EDT (0024Z).




NWS Composite Reflectivity Imagery from 1524Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004 (1124 AM EDT).
The composite reflectivity imagery is from the approximate time in which severe weather was reported in Lee, Moore, and Rockingham counties.

SPC Analysis at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004.





Analyzed mean sea level pressure (black) and surface wind barbs from SPC at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004 (11 AM EDT).
The circulation center is located across eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

SPC Analysis at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004.



Analyzed surface temperatures (red), dewpoints (green), and wind barbs from SPC at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004 (11 AM EDT).
Note the east to west gradient of temperatures (red) and dewpoints (green) with temperatures in the upper 70s to lower 80s and dewpoints in the lower to mid 70s across central and eastern North Carolina.

SPC Analysis at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004.



300 MB wind barbs (brown), 300 MB isotachs (red) and analyzed 300 MB divergence (purple) from SPC at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004 (11 AM EDT).
Note the area of divergence at 300 MB across central North Carolina. The divergence was primarily produced from directional shear across the region.

SPC Analysis at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004.



0-3 Km Storm Relative Helicity (blue) and storm motion (brown) from SPC at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004 (11 AM EDT).
Note the axis of increasing Storm Relative Helicity values across south-central North Carolina, northward to south central Virginia with some values exceeding 300 units.

SPC Analysis at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004.



Surface based CAPE values from SPC at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004 (11 AM EDT).
Note the area of increasing CAPE from central North Carolina east toward the coast.

SPC Analysis at 15Z on Wednesday, September 8, 2004.




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