Remembering Hurricane Frances

Sept. 5 marks 10-year anniversary of Frances making landfall on SE Fla. coast


MIAMI – A lot of Floridians, including me, will never forget the extremely active 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Sept. 5 marks the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Frances making landfall on the southeast Florida coast.

Frances will be remembered for having major impacts on the Bahamas and large areas of the United States. Many of the following highlights come from the Frances Tropical Cyclone Report issued by the National Hurricane Center.

Frances was a Cape Verde-type hurricane that reached peak intensity of 145 mph (category 4) as it passed north of the Virgin Islands and again as the center passed just north of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

It was a category 3 hurricane over the central Bahamas, a category 2 hurricane over the northwestern Bahamas and a category 2 hurricane as it made landfall over the southern end of Hutchinson Island, Fla.

It weakened as it moved slowly across the Florida peninsula and became a tropical storm just before emerging into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico near New Port Richey. Frances moved across the Gulf and made final landfall in the Florida Big Bend region as a 60 mph tropical storm.

Frances then moved northeastward over eastern Alabama and western Georgia, became a tropical depression between northern Georgia and West Virginia, and became extratropical as it continued through Pennsylvania, New York, southern Quebec and northern Maine before finally dissipating over the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Frances produced the highest storm surges along the Florida east coast estimated at 8 feet near Vero Beach and 6 feet near Cocoa Beach. Significant storm surges were also reported on the Florida Gulf Coast with values near 6 feet in Pinellas County and 3-5 feet in the Florida Big Bend area.

Widespread heavy rains and associated freshwater flooding were produced by Frances over much of the eastern United States. Large portions of the central and northern Florida peninsula and southeastern Georgia received rains in excess of 10 inches. The maximum reported rainfall was 18.07 inches in North Carolina, well after the winds had diminished below tropical storm force.

A total of 101 tornadoes were reported in association with Frances. Many of the tornadoes occurred over South and North Carolina, although 23 were also reported in Florida.

Frances was directly responsible for seven deaths -- five in Florida, one in the Bahamas and one in Ohio. Three deaths were caused by wind, two by storm surge, one by freshwater flooding and one by lightning. The hurricane was indirectly responsible for 42 deaths (i.e., deaths not directly from the hazards of the hurricane itself).

The estimate of total property damage from Frances was near $9.5 billion in 2004 dollars. Frances was the second strong hurricane to strike Florida that year, with two more yet to come.