HURRICANE: Cat 4 Bill could bring 8-foot waves when closest to Florida

By Lisa Zahner | Last updated at 2:15 a.m.TROPICS — After becoming a Category 4 hurricane, Bill held that status but did not intensify on Wednesday. . With 135 mph and gusts up to 160 mph, Bill is now traveling northwest instead of west-northwest, so it appears the storm is showing signs of making the predicted turn. Though a hit from Bill for Florida is a very slim possibility at this point, NOAA is predicting Bill could churn up waves of up to  8 to 10 feet high along Florida’s beaches over the weekend, specifically about 6 to 8 feet in Indian River County. This is the last thing the county’s shoreline needs as barrier island residents have not recovered from erosion caused by storms in 2004 and 2005.

“Large swells associated with Bill should also begin to affect Bermuda and portions of the southeastern coast of the United States Friday and Saturday,” the National Hurricane Center reported Wednesday. Click on Read more to see the new 5-day forecast and computer models of Bill. Bill has not yet made the drastic swoop north, which forecasters — and everyone along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States — are hoping for on Friday evening or Saturday. Before that occurs, coastal residents will have to endure the approach of this massive storm and maps showing Bill getting perilously close to the mainland.The 5-day forecast did not change much from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and calls for Bill to maintain Category 4 hurricane status overnight through Friday night and then to back off to a Category 3 Saturday afternoon. At 11 p.m. Bill was located near latitude 20.7 north and longitude 58.9 west and was moving northwest at 17 mph. with a minimum pressure of 945 millibars.The computer models (click on graphic to enlarge) are in fair agreement that Bill will be directed northward, possibly to Maine or even Nova Scotia, by atmospheric conditions, and the forecast for the time period before Bill is expected to make the turn has been shifted very slightly to the west over the past day or so. One model, the NGFLD depicted in yellow, which had moved westward Wednesday evening, predicts Bill will get within about 150 miles from Cape Cod.If all the models are wrong and the steering currents do not take Bill off to the north, the storm could reach the U.S. mainland by Sunday, somewhere between Virginia and New England.For some historical perspective on where major hurricanes have ended up after taking a similar trek as Bill, this map shows the path of Category 3 and 4 storms whose track came within 600 miles of Bill. This illustrates the sometimes unpredictable nature of these powerful tropical cyclones. The next advisory will be issued at 5 a.m.

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