Wilma: a hurricane today

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:57 PM GMT on October 18, 2005

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Wilma continues to intensify. Satellite imagery shows a dense cirrus overcast (CDO) beginning to form and cover the center of the storm, which is characteristic of a tropical storm intent on becoming a hurricane. Spiral banding and upper-level outflow continue to improve and cover a larger area. Some wind shear and dry air are affecting the northwest side of the storm, but Wilma is gaining a more symmetric appearance characteristic of a hurricane. The hurricane hunters left the storm at 3 am EDT this morning and are not due back until about 3 pm EDT this afternoon, so we will have to wait until then to learn Wilma's true strength.

The upper level environment continues to look favorable for intensification, with low wind shear and an anti-cyclone on top generating good outflow on all sides except the norhtwest. Intensification into a Category 3 hurricane by Thursday still seems like a good bet. There is a small chance Wilma could make it to Category 4 status by Friday, but shear will start to increase by then as the upper-level trough of low pressure generates strong westerly winds over her. This shear will likely reduce Wilma's winds by at least 20 mph, and landfall in Florida as a strong Category 2 hurricane seems like a reasonble intensity forecast.

Steering currents are expected to remain weak today, and some erratic motion is possible. All of the forecast models predict a generally west or west-northwest motion over the next two days. Now that Wilma has stopped moving south, this gives me some confidence that this forecast is the correct one, and the danger to Honduras is considerably lessened. Only the northeast portion of Honduras should see heavy rains over ten inches, and since this part of the country is relatively flat, the threat of life-threatening flash flooding and mud slides like killed thousands in Hurricane Mitch and Hurricane Fifi is low. So far, northeastern Honduras has received only one to two inches of rain from Wilma.

The country that has taken the worst pounding so far from Wilma is Jamaica, where Wilma's rains have already caused millions of dollars of damage to the road infrastructure. Widespread flooding and road blockages due to mudslides are being reported, and will continue as Wilma stays essentially stationary or moves very slowly away from Jamaica today.

Next on Wilma's hit list will be Mexico and Cuba, who have already had their share of major hurricanes this season. Mexico is still cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Emily earlier this year, and Cuba took one of its worst hurricane pouundings ever during Hurricane Dennis in July. Heavy rains in the Cayman Islands, Belize, Nicaragua, and northern Guatemala may also create local flooding problems in those nations. If Wilma grows large enough to tap the Pacific as a source of moisture, Nicaragua and Costa Rica could also experience some moderate flooding problems.

Figures 1. Computer model forecasts for Wilma.

The models have reached a strong consensus that a low pressure system currently bringing rain to the western U.S. will move east and exert a strong pull on Wilma, turning her more northwest by Thursday, through the Yucatan Channel, and then northeastward into the Florida Keys or the west coast of Florida by the weekend. Most of the guidance shows the Keys to be the primary region at risk, but the GFDL model has moved its landfall point further north with its most recent run (2 am EDT), and puts the area between Sarasota and Fort Myers in the bullseye. The NOAA jet is scheduled to makes its first flight tonight, and tomorrow morning we should have a better idea of the reliability of the current model forecasts.

Elsewhere in the tropics, there is a large area of disturbed weather midway between Africa and the Leeward Islands. Upper level winds are not favorable for development of this area, which is also too close to the Equator. I'll be back with a update in this afternoon after the Hurricane Hunters report in.

Jeff Masters

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395. VeroBeachNative
6:02 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
Thank you WillJax. I had heard the term, but obviously never experienced it!
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 63
394. palmbeacher
6:03 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
Zane it does look HUGE. Scary huh?
392. Weatherman65
6:02 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
lol.... too funny folks, i know more than you!!! this is a joke! bye guys
391. HurricaneZane
2:00 PM EDT on October 18, 2005
How BIG do you think Wilma will be when she crosses Fl.??Not strength, but size wise? Frances like?.. according the the GFDL that skye just posted.. she looks huges.. swallowing all of FL!
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390. 53rdWeatherRECON
5:48 PM GMT on October 18, 2005

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389. WillJax
5:51 PM GMT on October 18, 2005

This isn't my definition, but it's a good explanation of the conditions:

Nor'Easter (north-easter, or winds from the north east): A cyclonic storm occurring off the east coast of North America. These winter weather events are notorious for producing heavy snow, rain, and tremendous waves that crash onto Atlantic beaches, often causing beach erosion and structural damage. Wind gusts associated with these storms can exceed hurricane force in intensity. A nor'easter gets its name from the continuously strong northeasterly winds blowing in from the ocean ahead of the storm and over the coastal areas.

This is not a Nor'easter, but Jax will experience "Nor'easter like conditions" because the eye will pass to the south, putting us on the side of the storm that will bring winds from the ENE or NE. The weather in NE florida won't be pretty, but the winds aren't going to be powerful enough to cause structural damage. Expect a stormy, gray weekend with fast moving clouds, occasional downpours and strong gusts.

That could change if this storm were to track further north into Tampa and central Florida. The proximity to the storm would bring tropical storm like conditions to NE Florida, with a lot more rain, more steady winds, and more powerful gusts. Either way a not-so-nice weekend.
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388. Weatherman65
5:59 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
i dont know jack.... dude have fun with your life... cause your kids should grow up GREAT.... and now for your lecture on shear: so i dont know jack, what will turn wilma to the east sir??? And what temp what do you need to support cat 4 or 5 storms???? ok case rested. your info is so off sir. this is so sad.
387. wetbehindtheears
5:55 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
The UK weather bloggs are just not as entertaining as this, it's wet and foggy here on the moors, it was wet and foggy yesterday, and it will be wet and foggy tomorrow. What's to argue about? May'be it will be foggy and wet on Thursday....
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386. Skyepony (Mod)
5:56 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
~thanks FtL, I should have thought of that:)

~Here's the animated GFDL
Link scroll right & hit forward. there's a box as well with pressure & winds speed. Never below 110mph across fl
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385. Hurriphoon
5:55 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
I probably should have mentioned that water and electricity don't mix that well. But the point is we had glorious hot showers after days of stinking hot water with no AC. Im seriously thinking of installing the on demand propane water heater, its probably the best solution.
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384. thelmores
5:57 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
sorry if i insulted you Weatherman65, just find it hard to believe that somebody supposedly so aged and schooled could be so immature, not to mention foul-mouthed!

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383. stormygace
5:53 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
ftlauderdalepunk - could give a link? would like to look at that site some more. Thanks

Methinks someone needs a cholinesterase inhibitor & maybe a break from the caffeine..?ETOH, too?
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 1109
381. palmbeacher
5:58 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
stormy you are in trouble!!!LOL
379. Weatherman65
5:56 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
oh really storm .... ask someone about the shear wilma will pick up when it gets turned east.... you have solidified your dumbness now. the shear will wipe the tops from the tstorms and you are saying i dont know.... cmon now

378. palmbeacher
5:57 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
lol thelmores!
377. stormydee
5:53 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
Thelmores, YES with split personlaties and very much anger deep rooted (weatherman, did you have a bad childhood?) and wannabe's obviously his mamma :-)
Oh boy, lets see if I get screamed at now....
J/K :-)
Lets see some sense of humor here....but I doubt it...and away I post...
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 39 Comments: 517
376. thelmores
5:55 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
"mich state class of 74"


delusional..... only word that came to mind! LOL
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375. Weatherman65
5:54 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
clyde is not me....lol (about 20 years age diff) but i do know clyde from a real blog for real hurricane smarties! clyde and i live about 3000 miles from each other. we both find it funny from a weatherguys perspective to watch u guys exchange rumors
374. palmbeacher
5:55 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
Jimjax you still here?
373. cellman007
5:54 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
Member Since: September 1, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 22
371. schwankmoe
5:49 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
"he is a joke and all who listen to him are as well."

wow, so a lot of people on this blog are "jokes" to you?

some of you people need to get outside every once in a while. its a weather blog, for crissakes.

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370. Weatherman65
5:52 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
nor easters im my specialty, but im so uneducated i better not answer this one.
369. thelmores
5:48 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
anybody else think weatherman65 and clydefrog are the same people? LOL

immature...... only word i could come up with! :)
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368. stormygace
5:50 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
FtLauder.. - really nic pic

Hurriphoon - ROFL (ha, learnt that one the other nite!) I had image of better 1/2 watching me try to follow jerry rig instructions & causing explosion - that would be it (dun, finito) for girl powered home improvements :)
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 1109
367. Weatherman65
5:50 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
actually mich state class of 74, gace your intellect is something to be concerned about... vocabulary huh. Why do you have this med school kick too are you jealous of poor clyde who isnt even here!!!! lol sad
366. VeroBeachNative
5:48 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
WillJax -

Can you let me know what exactly a Nor'easter storm is?
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 63
365. Hurriphoon
5:47 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
the easier way is to (before the storm hits) go to Lowes and pick up a 110volt water heater element. You can drain your tank part way remove the old element and install the smaller unit which is only 1800 watts. Just add a power cord and plug into you 110 outlet on the generator. They also sell a cheap tool for removing the element. I keep one handy as a backup in case I am forced to use the small generator.
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364. stormygace
5:43 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
Nice vocabulary for a supposed college grad 65 - will flagging this get you to chill? OR BE CHILLED? Honestly take a powder little dude - your Napolean complex is way showing! Try to remember some of the bigger words from your GRE prep book - you took that right? Is there some euqivalent to foreign medical schools for meteorology - did you attend one?
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 1109
361. FtLauderdalepunk
5:38 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
skepony ill do u 1 better

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360. Hurriphoon
5:38 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
I have to pass on one more generator tip from last year. Before I got the big generator I was running on a smaller unit not really big enough to handle the 45oo watt water heater. Man, did we miss hot water after two days. So I went to the auto parts store (no power, pay with cash) and found a heater core from a ford. I hooked it up with some hose to pull cold water out of the water heater drain and pumped it through to heater core and back into the laundry tub faucet ( which usually has garden hose fittings). I use a small 110 volt water puppy type pump. Then I placed the heater core in the generator exhaust and PRESTO! we had scalding hot water in no time. Okay, once I left it to close t the exhaust for two long and it exploded, but Discount Auto Parts has a very generous return policy. But there is an easier way (next post)
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358. palmbeacher
5:43 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
skypony, thanks for that link although very disturbing.
357. cellman007
5:43 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
another Tammy for us in Jax
Member Since: September 1, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 22
356. Weatherman65
5:41 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
the rumors that clyde talked about run rampant in here. and i wonder who starts them..... i cannot believe people think this could turn into a cat 4 or 5 at LANDFALL. do people understand shear? to bad clyde left... you guys do need answers.
355. palmbeacher
5:42 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
yes Stormy, obscene it is.
354. WillJax
5:38 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
Forecaster from channel 12 in Jax says this:
"If Wilma moves toward Florida we will have Nor'easter type conditions this weekend. "
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353. stormydee
5:40 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
nicely said g1bass, thank you :-)
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 39 Comments: 517
352. Weatherman65
5:40 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
no what he said is obscene... someone call DCF please
351. cellman007
5:39 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
Jim he was probably about to blow a gasket over them, but now the easy part of the schedule starts
Member Since: September 1, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 22
350. Weatherman65
5:38 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
see storm, the gulf CANNOT SUPPORT A CAT 4 or 5 god.... the shear from what will turn wilma will inhibit any intensification... think about it....
349. stormydee
5:39 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
watch your words weatherman, that is obscene you know.....
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 39 Comments: 517
347. Skyepony (Mod)
5:30 PM GMT on October 18, 2005
UCF has put out their damage estimates for Fl. Link (scroll down) They've been pretty close this year, though I wouldn't be suprised to see it change a little in the next few days since we're so far out.

~if it's not info concerning weather; being data, experiences, prestorm questions~ there is a chatroom. Better yet I suggest a bashing blog. Some place we can go when we're having a bad day, a place to keep up on the WU politics.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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