HURRICANE: Cat 3 Bill could batter fragile Indian River County beaches

By Lisa Zahner | Last updated at 11:30 p.m.

TROPICS — Now Category 3 Hurricane Bill had a busy day on Wednesday, intensifying to 125 mph with gusts up to 155 mph at the 11 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. At its current size, speed and track, NOAA is predicting Bill could churn up waves of up to 10 feet high along Florida’s beaches over the weekend. This is the last thing Indian River County needs as barrier island residents have not recovered from erosion caused by storms in 2004 and 2005.

Bill has not yet made the anticipated swoop north, which forecasters — and everyone along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States — are hoping for on Friday or Saturday. The 5-day forecast calls for Bill to attain Category 3 hurricane status overnight tonight and to quickly strengthen into a massive Category 4 storm on Wednesday afternoon.

At 11 p.m. Bill was located near latitude 17.2 north, 555 miles due ease of the Leeward Islands, and longitude 53.4 west and was moving west northwest at 15 mph. The storm’s minimum pressure has plummeted to 952 millibars, signaling Bill will gain strength overnight. Forecasters predict that Bill will undergo another eyewall replacement soon, which may cause a temporary disruption in its path and possibly a temporary dip in speed.

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, but the forecast has shifted slightly to the west today. One model puts Cape Cod in the direct path of Bill’s eye.

If the steering currents do not take Bill off to the north, the storm could reach the U.S. mainland by Sunday evening or Monday.

The next advisory will be issued at 5 a.m. Thursday.

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