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Hurricane Frances Approaching Florida - 2004-09-03

Hurricane Frances weakened on Friday, but still caused heavy damage in the Bahamas. At least one death is reported in the Bahamas as a result of the storm. Forecasters say Frances could strengthen just before it strikes Florida on Saturday. The hurricane is moving very slowly, making it difficult to predict where the center of the storm will strike.

Hurricane Frances slowed to a crawl on Friday, moving in a west-northwest direction near 15 kilometers an hour. The storm, which had been expected to strike Florida late Friday, is now expected to come ashore Saturday. Broward Country Mayor Ilene Lieberman says residents should be aware the storm is highly unpredictable.

"We know that hurricanes can be unpredictable. Although it is moving slowly now, it can pick up steam as it comes across. And it can begin to move a little more quickly. It can slow down a little more, it can change its direction a little bit. We have seen all these things. This is the lesson that Hurricane Charley taught us just a short time ago," she says.

Hurricane Frances is the second major hurricane to strike Florida in less than a month. Just three weeks ago, Hurricane Charley devastated parts of southwest Florida causing nearly 30 deaths and billions of dollars in damages.

Speaking late Friday, Miami Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas cautioned residents to stay indoors and avoid their natural curiosity about the storm. "We have a lot of folks who, as the winds start picking up, and the weather comes in, they become curious bystanders and they go out see what is happening. That is when people get hurt. That is when people get killed," he says.

Forecasters have issued a hurricane warning for a 500 kilometer stretch on the Florida coastline, urging evacuation for coastal residents.

Frances struck the Bahamas on Friday, causing widespread flooding and power outages across the island chain.