Hurricane Frances barreled toward the Bahamas islands with 140 mph winds on Wednesday, a growing threat that put millions of people on alert along Florida's heavily populated east coast. The large, powerful hurricane menaced Florida as the state struggled to recover from Hurricane Charley three weeks ago, and revived memories of Andrew, the costliest hurricane in U.S. history that ravaged the Miami area 12 years ago. Frances was a Category 4 on the five-step scale of hurricane intensity and was much larger in diameter than Charley. "It will likely have an impact over a much, much larger area," said Max Mayfield, director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center. "If it remains a Category 4 hurricane, it certainly will cause extreme damage." Florida's Palm Beach County issued notice to about 300,000 people that they should be ready to evacuate mobile homes, barrier islands and flood-prone areas. Other counties prepared for evacuations, and southeast Florida schools, courts and government offices closed as of Thursday, informs Reuter. According to VOANews, officials of Florida's Palm Beach county have ordered the evacuation of 300,000 residents by Thursday afternoon amidst worries that the track of Hurricane Frances puts the area directly in harm's way. Florida Governor Jeb Bush followed the county order Wednesday afternoon with an announcement that he is coordinating with local officials around the state in anticipation of a Saturday landfall by the Category 4 storm. Forecasters have issued hurricane warnings for the Turks and Caicos islands for Wednesday and the southeastern Bahamas Thursday, as the storm moves west-northwest at 24 kilometers per hour. Tropical storm warnings also have been posted for the Dominican Republic. The U.S. National Weather Service says Frances now has sustained winds of up to 220 kilometers per hour, with hurricane-force winds extending out 130 kilometers from the storm's center. Florida was bracing itself last night for its second hurricane strike in a month as Hurricane Frances edged closer to the US coast. Forecasters predicted the state could be hit as early as tomorrow. With parts of the state still clearing up the devastation of Hurricane Charley and with hundreds of people still with no homes to go to, the category 4 storm was last night due to strike the Bahamas. Forecasters think Hurricane Frances could be more damaging than Hurricane Charley which tore through Florida last month destroying around 30,000 homes and causing an estimated $7.4bn (Ј4.13bn) worth of damage. The storm was blamed for 27 deaths, reports NEWS.
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