Wlima intensifying rapidly

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 10:19 PM GMT on October 18, 2005

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Wilma's rapid intensification phase continues, with another 9 mb drop in the past 1 1/2 hours, for a total of 16 mb in the past three hours. The 7:09 EDT hurricane hunter report found a pressure of 954 mb, and maximum flight level winds at 5000 feet of 101 knots (116 mph). Wilma is a solid Category 2 hurricane, and probably on her way to Category 3 status by early Wednesday morning. The Hurricane Hunters don't fly in Category 2 and stronger hurricanes at 5000 feet altitude very often; I wonder if the next eye penetration will be done at 10,000 feet.

Wilma has claimed her first victims; up to ten are dead on Haiti in landslides triggered by the hurricane's heavy rains. Mudslides and flooding are also serious problems in the southeastern Cuban provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba and Granma. Nearly 13 inches (33 cm) of rain was measured at Santiago de Cuba since Wilma's rains began. The Cuban newspaper Granma is reporting 255 homes damaged or destroyed in that town, and sections of the Sevilla-Guamá-Santiago de Cuba highway impassable due to swollen rivers, while landslides have blocked the Cordovelo-Loma Blanca road. In Jamaica, widespread flooding has cut off several communities and caused millions in damage to roads. All schools are closed on the island through Thursday and hospitals are taking only emergency patients. Rainfall rates as high as two inches per hour have been observed in the Blue Mountains of south-central Jamaica this afternoon.

Wilma's eye diameter is now a very tiny 8 nm (9 miles), up one mile since last report, but still very small for a hurricane. It will be interesting to see how long Wilma can maintain an eye that small; I expect the eyewall will collapse by morning and an eyewall replacement cycle will begin, with Wilma leveling out at Category 3 strength. The eye is now very prominent on satellite imagery, and spiral banding and upper-level outflow continue to improve and cover a larger area.

The remainer of my 5pm discussion appears below, unchanged.

Wilma became a hurricane today, tying the record of 12 hurricanes in a season set in 1969. In that year, the last two hurricanes formed after October 30, so 2005 has a decent chance of breaking that record. I expect 2005 will also break the record of 21 total storms, which it now shares with the 1933 hurricane season.

The upper level environment looks excellent but not perfect for intensification, with low wind shear and two good outflow channels, one on the north side, and one on the southwest side. About five knots of wind shear is degrading the outflow pattern and symmetry on the northwest side, and there is still some dry air there for Wilma to contend with. Continued intensification into a Category 3 hurricane by Wednesday looks reasonable, and I'd give it a 40% chance Wilma makes it to Category 4 status by Friday. The GFDL is calling for a 922 mb Category 4 storm by Friday, but this forecast is probably overdone, as the GFDL has been consistently too aggressive with its intensity forecasts for Wilma. By Saturday, Wilma will be far enough north that wind shear from an upper-level trough of low pressure will reduce Wilma's winds by perhaps 20 mph.

Wilma is currently traversing an area of high oceanic heat content (see Figure 1), and this heat content will not significantly fall unless Wilma passes north of the Florida Keys. I would expect an additional 10 mph reduction in Wilma's winds if she makes landfall in Florida north of the Keys, due to the lower heat content of the water. So, expect landfall as a strong Category 2 hurricane if Wilma moves through the Keys, or as a weak Category 2 hurricane further north. Remember that hurricane intensity forecasts are poor, especially 3 - 5 days out, so Wilma's intensity could easily be a full Category higher or lower than this.


Figure 1. Total heat content of the ocean is high over the northwest Caribbean and the southern Gulf of Mexico south of 25 N latitude. Images credit: NOAA/AOML.

Jamaica continues to take a pounding from Wilma, but this should end tomorrow night as Wilma pulls away. The next area of concern is northern Honduras and Nicaragua, where rains of up to 12 inches are expected. However, the portions of these countries that will receive the heaviest rains are relatively flat, so I do not expect massive loss of life from flooding in the mountains.

Next on Wilma's list will be the Cayman Islands, but flooding is generally not life-threatening in that nation. Mexico and Cuba may escape serious damage if Wilma passes through the Yucatan Channel as forecast.


Figures 1. Computer model forecasts for Wilma.

Wilma started moving WNW at 8 mph today, as all the computer models predicted she would. The models are pretty unified, bringing Wilma through the Yucatan Channel or across the western tip of Cuba, and then northeastward into the Florida Keys or the west coast of Florida by the weekend. Two models (the UKMET and GFS) predict that Wilma will pass just south of the Keys. The furthest north model is the Canadian, which picks Sarasota for its landfall. The GFDL, NOGAPS, and the official NHC forecast are in the middle, with a landfall over the Everglades of Southwest Florida. The NOAA jet is scheduled to makes its first flight tonight, and tomorrow morning we should have a better idea of which part of Florida is at most risk. Climatology favors a more southern track, and I expect that we'll see the models converge on a more southerly track through the Keys in the runs we see Wednesday morning.

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 the morning.

Jeff Masters

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364. ncstorm
3:31 PM GMT on August 31, 2013
how come some people have join dates and some dont?
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16576
363. CybrTeddy
3:27 PM GMT on August 31, 2013
Spoiler alert Cody - worse than Wilma in terms of damage.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24938
362. TropicalAnalystwx13
10:43 PM GMT on June 06, 2012
Up to 2012 now, CybrTeddy.

2008 was an active year with the second costliest hurricane on record (Ike). Gustav also made landfall in Louisiana.

2009 featured no hurricane landfalls.

2010 featured no hurricane landfalls.

2011 featured Hurricane Irene, the sixth costliest hurricane on record. It devastated portions of the Northeast and Eastern Seaboard, but only made landfall as a Category 1.

The major hurricane landfall streak--or lack thereof--continues into 2012. I wonder what this season will hold?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 34089
361. CybrTeddy
12:17 AM GMT on July 23, 2008
This all feels like it happened yesterday, but its
2008.

2006; was a slow season, no Hurricanes hit the CONUS

2007; was semi-Active, 2 CAT 5 Landfalls, Hurricanes Dean and Felix in Central America.

2008; Very Active so far, 2 Hurricanes in July,
with Hurricane Bertha at CAT 3 in the middle of nowhere. Right now Hurricane Dolly is in the Gulf of Mexico nearing Texas.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24938
360. Stellamaris123
11:10 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Gulp! Woke up, booted up, blinked - thought colour coding on wild Wilma's forecast track had gone haywire. Woke up double quick when the lilac shade matched the Cat 5 figure. Am following blog and I too can hardly wait to see what Dr Masters has to say about Wilma's awesome statistics. One can only hope Wilma fizzles out somehow... but methinks not :(
359. quakeman55
11:05 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
HE HAS A NEW POST!!! LET'S ALL GO SEE!!!!
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 1276
358. Skyepony (Mod)
10:58 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Incredible~ read discusion if ya hadn't. Check your own modelsLink. I gotta get busy.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 292 Comments: 41031
357. newFLfungirl
10:54 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
New to post, but been here for a while. Thanks for all of your insights and education!!!
This is my first hurricane season here. I am in Tampa. When should I worry about evacuating or not??? I don't know the distance, from point of impact, that I need to worry about taking off for a quick, very quick visit to my family in CA. lol My hubbie is very calm, TOO CALM for his own good. Don't trust his reasoning or understanding of the potential harm to us and my 4 year old daughter. Sorry so wordy. I will work on that. ;)
356. njsammy
10:52 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
hurigo...FYI...to find out the SST for vince, i went into Dr. Masters blog, and clicked on a link that said something like "view older entries"...
355. njsammy
10:49 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Woops...boy was I off...according to Dr. Masters, Vince formed in an area with SST around 24 C. If I have the translation from C to F right, that would mean 75 F...should have checked my info before posting....
Will check Dr. Gregory's post...thanks for the suggestion, rarearth...
354. hurigo
10:47 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
NJSammy: I don't know how to look up SST for Vince's birth. I do see that max winds 75 and lowest pressure 987

SOON what we have expected to be our experts on this blog will be waking up and we'll get better commentary and interpretations. (Sometimes though hard to tell the "experts" from the "enthusiasts" and appreciate the science and intuition.)
Member Since: October 9, 2005 Posts: 100 Comments: 6749
353. rarearth
10:44 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
NJSammy: for discussion of water temperatures in the region victor formed, just check Steve Gregory's blog. THere is an entry at the 9th of october called ** VINCE - EXCEPTION TO THE RULE ? - UPDATE - NEW PIX **
352. quakeman55
10:44 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
I think Dr. Masters was saying something about them being in the 23-24C ranger where Vince was, where 26C is typically the minimum temperature needed to support tropical storms and hurricanes. I think that's what it was anyway...if I remember right.
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 1276
351. seflagamma
10:44 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Goodmorning to those just joining us. Appears a lot of us who went to bed with a Cat2 almost choked on our breakfast this morning to see what has happened over night!
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 305 Comments: 41020
350. AM91091
10:41 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
I almost chocked on my breakfast when i saw 884 mb...It was a Cat 2 at 11 PM!
349. hurigo
10:38 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Sherry B. All storms are different. I think Charlie was early Aug (perhaps sst higher off Fla) and C moved more slowly. Stay alert, pay attention to your local weather advisories, be prepared and have a plan. I know it is TERRIFYING now with this dramatic news this morning.
Member Since: October 9, 2005 Posts: 100 Comments: 6749
348. njsammy
10:36 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
I've heard mention of 2 other hurricanes hitting Europe...Debbie and something else, I forget...but what I thought was so amazing about Vince is that, while Debbie (and I believe the other storm) formed over the tropics...and just held on all the way across the atlantic...no small feat... Vince FORMED in such a bizarre place...anyone know what the SSTs were where it formed? I would think they were nowhere NEAR 80...or even 75 or 70 for that matter....that part of the Atlantic is far cooler than the Western Atlantic...I'm guessing water temps in the low-mid 60's at best...anyone know? What is going on this season??
347. hurigo
10:31 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Of the 2004 storms, does the track and intensity of Wilma (thus far)most resemble Ivan (other then the fact that Ivan formed in western Atlantic.
Member Since: October 9, 2005 Posts: 100 Comments: 6749
346. SherryB
10:30 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
OMG..just got up to check....This is incredible!!! Cat 5

Checked out Accuweather and they have it coming in where Charley did...This is not good for me!
345. dcw
10:30 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
"Might become a major hurricane in the Caribbean..."

Yep. Just might.
Member Since: August 2, 2001 Posts: 2 Comments: 3
344. quakeman55
10:28 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
This seemed valid at the time, but now this comment from Dr. Masters appears very ironically comical:

"The GFDL is calling for a 922 mb Category 4 storm by Friday, but this forecast is probably overdone, as the GFDL has been consistently too aggressive with its intensity forecasts for Wilma."

Actually, just the opposite is true...the GFDL wasn't nearly aggressive enough!! Clearly NOBODY saw this coming...NOBODY thought it would get THIS strong THIS fast...oh I can't wait for Dr. Masters to show up!!!
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 1276
343. njsammy
10:27 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Thanks hurigo...appreciate it!!
342. hurigo
10:26 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
dcw, i don't know if it is a record or not, but research to find out if Vince was the first to form into a hurricane at that lat/lon with that SST
Member Since: October 9, 2005 Posts: 100 Comments: 6749
341. quakeman55
10:23 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Well first tropical cyclone ever to make landfall on the Iberian Peninsula (passed just S of southern tip of Portugal and came ashore in extreme SW Spain).
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 1276
340. rarearth
10:19 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
dcw, you forgot on your list: first season with a hurricane hitting Portugal
339. hurigo
10:15 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
njsammy: I'm not an expert, but a student, so these are comments re your questions.
1. Per Master's posting yest'd, he commented he had never seen an eye as small as what it was at that time 7 nautical miles, so let's what he sees when he posts this AM. Rapid decrease in pressure is an indicator that strengthening on the way and I believe we have seen a number of storms this year have rapid drops in pressure.

2) you can see the SST (sea surface temps) on the wunderground tropical opening page. Though I have difficulty interpretting the colors. (Vince formed under lower SST--such that some were quite surprised that those temps could support a hurricane. I, too, would like to know if increased speed decreases the vulnerability of storms to lower SST--and effect on eye wall replacements. Hope we'll see some comments on this from Dr. Masters.

3)I hear that storms of this extreme strength do not maintain strength for long time, but seems like some of the storms this year are not abiding by the "rules." Predictions are that the storm will loose strength as it moves north and then sharp northeast (steered by that California low charging east).

4)I hope Dr. M will address this in his next posting. Question I'd like to see answered, too.

4) Track takes it FAST NE through FL into ocean. I too wonder if it will keep charging ahead in that direction. Would like to know where the "Bermuda High" will be at that time and whether there will be a retrograding front, to pull the storm back to the N or NW.

5) Let's hope the experts are correct in that the storm will decrease in strength before it hits FLA. Don't know how fast suspect Path could be evacuated. I too worry about the elderly and those with limited means to get out of harms way. NHC forecast has it moving from just west of Cuba on Saturday to way into Ocean by Monday--that's pretty fast. Landfalling hurricanes produce tornados on the east side (I think) and wonder if the quickness of the storm will increase/decrease tornado concerns.

NHC 5 am discussion does advise: This is probably the lowest minimum pressure ever observed in the Atlantic
Basin and is followed by the 888 mb minimum pressure associated with hurricane Gilbert in 1988. However...one must be very careful before it is declared a record minimum pressure until a full and detailed calibration of the instruments and calculations is performed. So please do not jump into conclusions yet...be patient.

I have seen in previous postings (and perhaps official NHC info) that there have been problems with some of the equipment used to assess these storms.

SORRY so long a posting.





















6) How long will it take for S. Florida to evacuate? Long pennisula, few north-south roads, and a large population... many of whom are elderly. Sounds scary to me. I'm thinking people should start evacuating today, though I'm no expert (I didn't even spend the night in a Holiday Inn Express LOL).

So many questions.... Good thing I don't post too often! Great site by the way!

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Posted By: seflagamma at 9:21 AM GMT on October
Member Since: October 9, 2005 Posts: 100 Comments: 6749
338. quakeman55
10:13 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Actually I meant to post it directly like this:

Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 1276
337. quakeman55
10:12 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
It's unbelieveable how small that eye is. Look at this! Link
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 1276
336. quakeman55
10:08 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
You forgot to add "Smallest Eye (2 N MI)" to that list...
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 1276
335. dcw
10:05 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
WOW. Wilma has dropped from a 998mb TS monday morning to...this...in 36 hours! 114mb in 36 hours, or more than 3mb/hour for 3 days on average.

:O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O
Member Since: August 2, 2001 Posts: 2 Comments: 3
334. dcw
10:03 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
I heard them talking on the radio (you know, lying in bed groggy), and hear "...is now a Catrgoey 5 hurricane"

At that point I literally plow through my bedroom door, curse my computer's slow booting, and simultaneously watch TWC and NHC with my jaw dropping...because this terrifys me. Three times this season I have called a storm a potential "monster". Three times, they have undergone unbeleiveable deepening that same night. Remaind me not to do that again...breaking Gilbert in NOVEMBER??? Records broken so far:

Most Named Storms (21, tie, 1933)
Most Hurricanes (12, tie, 1969)
Strongest in Atlantic Basin (884mb)
Third Category 5 in a season [with Rita and Katrina]
Most rapid deepening (76mb/11h, 54mb/4h)
First W storm
First W hurricane
First W major hurricane

Any more to add?
Member Since: August 2, 2001 Posts: 2 Comments: 3
333. kaneui
10:03 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Wilma goes from a tropical storm to a Cat. 5 in 18 hours? If this isn't a record, it's gotta be close...and 884 mb pressure?

Gee, if 2005 is any indicator, upcoming hurricane seasons will be mind-boggling!
332. seflagamma
9:53 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Good morning DCW, are you just getting up also. Your words were my expression about an hour ago when I got up also.
Unbelievable! Gamma
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 305 Comments: 41020
331. dcw
9:52 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Could someone PLEASE tell me how this is possible? They said dreaded pinhole eye...now we know why. Holy God.
Member Since: August 2, 2001 Posts: 2 Comments: 3
330. dcw
9:37 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WHAT????!??????!

WHERE DID THAT COME FROM????

*reconsiders exacuation plan* JEEZ!
Member Since: August 2, 2001 Posts: 2 Comments: 3
329. njsammy
9:29 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
gamma...i suppose even Dr. Masters needs a little sleep from time to time! That said, I cant wait to read his next post!!
328. njsammy
9:22 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Infrequent poster here, (though I lurk alot).
1) It does seem as though storms this year are undergoing remarkable intensification over a short timeframe. From cat 1 to cat 5...in what...the space of 12 or so hours? Also, the eye at only 2 miles wide...I've never heard of such a small eye. Is this unprecedented?

2) I know the SSTs in the southeastern gulf are cooler than in the carribean...but, anyone know how cool is "cooler"? And what intensity can those water temps support? I know it depends on how rapidly the storm moves over those cooler waters, and whether it has to deal with eyewall replacement while over them.

3) Thanks scaldisnoel for the link about eyewall replacement. So...since the eyewall is tiny, we can expect eyewall replacement sometime today? I assume since it's still over very warm water, it'll have a chance to recover after some weakening, before it roars into the gulf...

4)Is there a rough gauge as to how often eyewall replacement happens? I guess we can hope that one happens just as Wilma hits the cooler waters, in which case it will have a harder time re-strengthening once the cycle is complete...does that make sense?

5) Also, anyone have a theory as to whether this will track up the east coast once it moves off florida? The models seem to push it away from the coast, though Bastardi seems to think the NE is in for a hammering.

6) How long will it take for S. Florida to evacuate? Long pennisula, few north-south roads, and a large population... many of whom are elderly. Sounds scary to me. I'm thinking people should start evacuating today, though I'm no expert (I didn't even spend the night in a Holiday Inn Express LOL).

So many questions.... Good thing I don't post too often! Great site by the way!
327. seflagamma
9:21 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
When do you think Dr Masters will update this blog now that the 5am is out and this is a record setting storm?
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 305 Comments: 41020
326. Maui
9:14 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
So now this season has number 1, 4 and 5 on the strongest hurricances of all time. Pretty insane.

Here's hoping when she finally hits she's alot tamer than 4 and 5 were.
325. windymiller
9:05 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
scaldisnoel - many thanks!
324. Maui
9:03 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
So according to the plan of the day from the NHC site, it doesn't look like they plan to have an aircraft back in there for 12 hours. Am I reading that wrong?

Since the pressure still seems to be in a freefall (somehow) it would have been interesting to see how much lower it would have gone.
323. scaldisnoel
9:02 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Windymiller,

Check out this link from NOAA re: eyewall replacement


Link
Member Since: September 3, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 59
322. alpha992000
9:01 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
We are all speechless in here Quakeman, and our knowledge is VERY limited. Just imagine what they must be feeling in there. Dang, wish I was there with them!
Member Since: October 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 126
321. windymiller
8:57 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
can somebody pse xplain what an eywall replacement cycle is and what it means in relation to intensity?
320. alpha992000
8:57 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Wake Dr. Masters!!! Can't wait to hear what he has to say about this. Anyone with new models, links on this one?
Member Since: October 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 126
319. quakeman55
8:56 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
I'll bet all the NHC forecasters and all the recon mission people are left speechless...Wilma took their breath away...
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 1276
318. leftyy420
8:52 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
884mb we broke the record what a night what a year

86mb drop in 11 hrs thats crazy
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
317. alpha992000
8:50 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
THIS THING IS A FREAKIN' MONSTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 884 MB?!?! HOOOOOLLLLLYYYyy S***!!!!!!!!
Member Since: October 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 126
316. seflagamma
8:48 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Oh my goodness. Went to bed last night it was a cat 2, woke up this morning and it is a super cat 5. This is unbeliveable!
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 305 Comments: 41020
315. lifesaver
8:44 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
I think I heard the actual name of the 'Alpha' Storm would be 05Alpha. So even if there is an 'Alpha' storm next season, it could still be called 'Alpha' but it would actually be '06Alpha'.

314. matilda101
8:41 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
30 mile wide F-4 tornado, truly scary
Member Since: August 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 303

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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