Wlima intensifying rapidly

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

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 Guantnamo, 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-Guam-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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314. matilda101
8:39 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
30 mile wide F-4 tornado, truly scary
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313. xkcd
8:40 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Hey, someone just brought up an interesting point -- if they retire "Hurricane Alpha", what replaces it?

Maybe the radio phonetic alphabet, or numerals.
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312. lifesaver
7:48 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Newbie here. Been lurking since Katrina. Great info.

My money is on 882mb. Two questions..

1) Whats with the rapid intensification of the storms this year? it just seems like all the major ones have been ramping up FAST.

2) We all know Gilbert holds the Atlantic Basin record for mb with 888. What are the records for measured windspeads?

Never thought I'd see a season like this. Cat 5 "W" storm?

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311. Maui
8:35 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
looks we have a record. 884 mb.
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310. xkcd
8:33 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Hey, someone just brought up an interesting point -- if they retire "Hurricane Alpha", what replaces it?
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309. quakeman55
8:24 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
What are people going to think when they wake up and find that out???

I can't WAIT to see what Dr. Masters has to say about this. This'll be his most interesting post yet!!!
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308. Trouper415
7:31 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
absolutely amazing.
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307. WillJax
7:23 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Winds beginning to steadily increase...
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306. Maui
7:13 AM GMT on October 19, 2005

I would say you were getting carried away. But with that low of pressure and that tight an eyewall I don't think 200 would be out of the question.

Only thing: how long can she possibly hold on without dumping that 2nm eye? Can we make anything of the recon reports not mentioned concentric eyewalls? They usually mention them... but how could she not have one by this point?
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305. cirrocumulus
7:09 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Hurricane Wilma has strengthened into an "extremely dangerous" Category 5 hurricane, with sustained maximum winds of 175 mph, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

The hurricane's minimum pressure is 892 millibars -- the lowest pressure observed in 2005.

Forecasters warn that the storm could possibly slam into southwestern Florida by this weekend.

At 2:30 a.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center reported an Air Force plane had found 175 mph winds with higher gusts in Wilma.

Wilma "has become an extremely dangerous Category Five hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale," the center said in an advisory.

The storm's minimum pressure of 892 millibars "is equivalent to the minimum pressure of the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in the Florida Keys," the advisory added.

The storm has already left seven to 10 people dead in Haitian mudslides caused by heavy rains, government officials told Reuters news agency.

The latest in a slew of devastating storms to sock the Gulf region, Wilma became a hurricane Tuesday -- tying the record for both most hurricanes in a season with 12 and most named storms at 21.

Just nine hours after becoming a hurricane, Wilma's wind speeds had jumped from 75 mph to 100 mph. Then, within two hours, the winds intensified from 110 to 150 mph. A short time later, its winds had increased to 175 mph.

At 2 a.m. EDT, the center of the storm was located 170 miles south-southwest of Grand Cayman Island and about 400 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. It was moving west-northwest at nearly 8 mph and is expected to turn to the northwest over the next 24 hours, the hurricane center said.

A Category 5 hurricane can cause a storm surge of more than 18 feet above normal.

Projections for Wilma's path suggest the storm may skirt the western tip of Cuba on Friday, possibly as a Category 4 storm with winds of greater than 130 mph, before curving eastward and barreling toward the southwestern Florida coast.

"All interests in the Florida Keys and the Florida peninsula should closely monitor the progress of Wilma," the NHC said.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward about 15 miles from the eye, and tropical-storm-force winds stretch up to 155 miles from the center.

Cuba has issued a hurricane watch for the provinces of Matanzas westward through Pinar del Rio and for the Isle of Youth, according to the hurricane center. Late Tuesday, Mexico extended a hurricane watch for the Yucatan Peninsula. The watch area now stretches from Punta Gruesa to Cabo Catoche. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions, including winds of at least 74 mph, are possible within 36 hours.

A 150-mile stretch of the Honduran coast is under a tropical storm warning, and the Cayman Islands are under tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch.

The hurricane center said Cuba could get anywhere from 10 to 15 inches of rain in Wilma's wake, with some areas getting socked with as much as 25 inches. Additional rainfall accumulations of of up to 10 inches, with up to 15 inches possible in some areas, was possible across the Cayman Islands and Jamaica through Thursday. Across the Yucatan Peninsula, rainfall of up to 6 inches was possible, with up to 12 inches in some areas.

Wilma is the 21st named storm of the 2005 hurricane season and the 12th to reach hurricane status. Of those, five have developed into major hurricanes.

The only other time 12 hurricanes have been recorded in the Atlantic was in 1969, according to the hurricane center. The most major hurricanes in a year was eight, in 1950.

Wilma is also the final name on the 2005 list. The hurricane center does not use certain letters of the alphabet, including X, Y and Z, because there are so few names begin with those letters.

If any tropical storms and subsequent hurricanes form before the season ends on Nov. 30, they will be classified using the Greek alphabet, beginning with Alpha.

If that happens, it would be the first time since the naming of storms began in 1953, according to the hurricane center.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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304. 8888888889gg
7:06 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
i say 195 or 200mph winds by 5 am any one going in with me?
303. SargeAbernathy
7:07 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Maui: Apparently not.
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302. Maui
7:04 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Its also impossible. Isn't it?
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301. Business
7:01 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
2 mile wide eye?! thats freaking AMAZING
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300. 8888888889gg
6:58 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Maui i go in with you with 888mb
299. 8888888889gg
6:49 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
hmmm 892mb wow any one thinking a 885mb or a 880mb? let me no
298. Maui
6:49 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
888? Any takers?
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297. avlos
6:42 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
i seriously came close to pissing myself.... i had an inkling it might be a major hurricane soon... but not this possessed monster... the circulation is so tightly wound it could still strengthen.... the CDO is the most amazing i've ever seen, wow. May it die as fast as it has strengthened, not likely but we can hope.
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296. wxwatcher
6:06 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Sorry lefty, a bunch of us just celebrated our EOTT or (End Of Texas Threat) last night. We do this every year when hurricanes no longer threaten the Texas coast for the remainder of the hurricane season. I'm not usually one to gloat, but after a few hair-raising instances this year, we in TX feel it is a time for celebration and a time to give thanks for a safe year with no catastrophic storms (except for far east Texas).

Again, sorry for the distraction -- I know a bunch of ya'll are trying to figure Wilma out.

Until next year -- take it easy and everyone stay safe.

In the words of Gen. Honore ------>>> OVER!
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295. sSnack
2:37 AM EDT on October 19, 2005
230 AM EDT WED OCT 19 2005
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294. IceSlater
2:09 AM EDT on October 19, 2005
wilma is a cat 4 and just shy of cat 5 901 milabar at 2 am from plane ..........................winda are at 150 mph....................WOW
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293. MysteryMeat
5:59 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
From Dr. Masters' post:

Wilma is a solid Category 2 hurricane, and probably on her way to Category 3 status by early Wednesday morning.

At this point, the only way she'll be a Category 3 when people wake up this morning is if a chain of 20,000-foot mountains sprout up in her path.

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292. leftyy420
6:01 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
any of you that want to join us in my blog are more than welcome. thats wheremost of us are

lefty's blog
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291. mammasleep
5:56 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
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290. theboldman
10:59 PM PDT on October 18, 2005
lol punk ill bet it will be lyons too lol
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289. ralphfurley
5:56 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
thanks..i will start building my bunker now
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 117
288. FtLauderdalepunk
5:52 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Lat/Lon: 26.14 -80.27
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287. FtLauderdalepunk
5:49 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
warren madden is gonna piss himself lol
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286. wxwatcher
5:44 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
What's up my hungover wunderground friends...? Well, we have another hurricane on our hands and to my amazement, this storm is indeed going to take a 90 degree turn toward Florida (perhaps a little south or 'thread the needle' is the best case). While I feel for those in Florida, I have to say after eight storms over the past two years --- why don't yall move to the South Texas coast where we are SAFE from storms!!!!?????

I know all hurricanes are bad and at first I could sympathize with you all down in Florida, but after EIGHT??!!! YALL are NUTS living there!!!!!!! We are going to enjoy a gentle breeze, sunny, mild, and DRY conditions here in South Texas -- Just like we always do when hurricanes threaten the Gulf!!! Come on Down!!

MargaRITAs and MargarWILMAs here in sunny south texas ..!!
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285. ParadiseInterrupted
5:46 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
I'm in Grand Cayman and there is a steady wind but no particularly heavy rain - our dish network is still working and that goes down at the slightest excuse. Dr Masters is right when he says we don't get too affected by flooding (other than the 10 foot storm surge, gift of Ivan, type).

It looks like the worst of the wind will pass us by, but the coast is gonna pounded by some heavy wave action.

Good luck to you all in Fla.
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284. ralphfurley
5:48 AM GMT on October 19, 2005

Do you have coordinates for Plantation? NHC has WILMA at 26N 81W on Saturday..just curious
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 117
283. MysteryMeat
5:47 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Jeez, is Wilma sitting on top of a 90-degree pool of Red Bull or something? Holy schamoly.
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282. FtLauderdalepunk
5:47 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
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281. ndcohn
5:43 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
mmm it does look like the central dense overcast is beginning to break down into banding like katrina did; its particularly apparent on dvorak
280. jbuczyna
5:39 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
It's too difficult to say if it's developing a stadium effect, but I'd say no simply because the eye is too small--it might be at the beginning of a relatively rapid eyewall replacement cycle. However, I'm not sure that a cyclone with pressure this low has ever been witnessed to undergo an eyewall replacement cycle, so this should be interesting. Oh well, off to bed for me, have to see what it's done in the morning...
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279. ndcohn
5:36 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
huh interesting. Thanks!

am i right in saying that it looks like its developing one?
278. ralphfurley
5:32 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
well i wont debate your point. the NHC is very conservative; that's the nature of scientists and government employees. Plus the local officials think about money first and NHC realizes this.

But I saw Mayfield on TV tonight..he wasnt downplaying anything...he was worried that there would be enough time for Keys to do much of anything.

Local Miami weather spoke of Wilma reaching 3 maybe 4 tomorrow, but weakening to 1 or 2 by landfall...no one was expecting CAT 5.
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 117
277. jbuczyna
5:31 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
The storm is officially at 130 knots instead of 145 knots because the 80% of flight-level winds is more correct for a pinhole eye--there is no stadium effect yet--when you get stadium effect, you have a stronger cyclonic effect at the surface than would otherwise be anticipated in the air, i.e. a smaller eye radius and thus stronger winds than with the pinhole eye that Wilma currently has. However, with a 901 mb pressure, it will be interesting to see what happens--however, an eyewall replacement cycle might be imminent, and there might not be much further intensification; if an eyewall replacement cycle doesn't happen, then we may end up seeing a stadium effect and the winds will probably increase to around 190 mph.
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276. zakelwe
5:24 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
whats the record for most sub 900mb cyclones in one year ?
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275. ndcohn
5:24 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
its downplaying when they always are so sure to follow their recon data for continuity sake and now when data clearly indicates 145KT [unless something else would say otherwise which isnt made apparent yet] ... they put it at 130KT.
274. sigh
5:24 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
>Does anyone have any idea about what happens after
>Florida, are there any models that take it to North
>Carolina? I would love your thoughts.

No. Every single model takes the storm rapidly out into the open Atlantic after crossing Florida.
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273. Hurriphoon
5:23 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
I thought typhoon Ida was 853 mb
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272. ralphfurley
5:21 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Why is the NHC downplaying this as a cat 4

a special 1am advisory is hardly downplaying....there will be lots of surprised folks in south florida this morning...hope the folks in Keys are still prepared.

Stay classy,FURLEY OUT!
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 117
271. MIAWX
5:20 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
correction..typhoon tip measured 870mb. (i'm sleepy)
270. MIAWX
5:18 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
yes, the lowest pressure in the atlantic was Gilbert, measuring 888mb. lowest on earth was Typhoon Tip in the Pacific, measuring 979mb!
269. ndcohn
5:16 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Why is the NHC downplaying this as a cat 4 when winds and pressure clearly support 145kt maximum sustained winds.
268. 8888888889gg
5:10 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
so could the mb get in the 800s any one no
267. mammasleep
5:09 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Does anyone have any idea about what happens after Florida, are there any models that take it to North Carolina? I would love your thoughts.

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266. ahatt1
5:08 AM GMT on October 19, 2005
Hey Skypony, got a question about those maps. I can't zoom in on the Katrina estimates, but from what it looks like its way off. First reports are in from Bay St. Louis reporting 28ft storm surge, but map says 9ft from what I can tell, just wondering how its that far off or if its just me
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265. RobbTC
1:10 AM EDT on October 19, 2005
1 AM EDT WED OCT 19 2005

264. MIAWX
5:10 AM GMT on October 19, 2005


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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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