Wilma aims devastating blow at Mexico

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:52 PM GMT on October 20, 2005

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Hurricane Wilma continues across the western Caribbean towards Mexico as a extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane capable of massive destruction. Wilma is currently undergoing a collapse of her inner eyewall, which will cause a short weakening trend that may last the remainder of the day. The inner eyewall of eight miles diameter is collapsing, and a new eyewall of 40 miles diameter is forming. This will reduce Wilma's peak winds to perhaps 135 mph today, at the low end of Category 4 strength. We'll have to wait until the next hurricane hunter mission arrives around 4 pm today to verify if this is the case.

As Wilma's eye reforms at a much larger size, the hurricane should begin to intensify again, and a return to Category 5 strength by Friday afternoon is a possibility. The larger eye will result in a much larger area being exposed to the extreme winds of the eyewall. If Wilma makes landfall along the Yucatan Peninsula, a stretch of coast perhaps 50 miles long will experience extreme damage.


Figure 1. Computer model tracks for Hurricane Wilma.

Where will Wilma go?
There is still a high degree of uncertainty in the forecast for Wilma. NHC has not adjusted the official forecast much the past few days, which is wise when the computer models are having difficulty. A trough of low pressure moving across the central U.S. should turn Wilma northwest today towards Cozumel Island, and then due north by tomorrow. However, once Wilma reaches the vicinity of Cancun and Cozumel, the storm is expected to slow to a crawl or stall for 12 - 48 hours. This will result in the northeast tip of the Yucatan Peninsula receiving a horrific pounding, particularly if the eye comes ashore. This weekend is a very bad weekend to be a tourist in Cancun.

Finally, by Saturday, strong westerly winds will build in behind the trough and carry Wilma rapidly northeastward across South Florida or the waters between Florida and Cuba.
The absolutely critical thing is--where will Wilma stall out? The GFDL model believes Wilma will push inland over the tip of the Yucatan, and spend two days overland, and weaken to a tropical storm. The UKMET model believes Wilma will stall in the Yucatan Channel, and not lose much strength. The other models have modest variations on these two themes. The difference in postions is only 100 miles or so. This is impossible to reliably forecast even 12 hours in advance, given the weak steering currents that are likely to exist Friday. Will will just have to wait and see what happens. Very small changes in storm position will cause huge changes in Wilma's intensity.

A long encounter with the Yucatan Peninsula would cause a serious disruption of the hurricane. While the waters are still warm enough to support intensification once she starts moving through the Gulf of Mexico towards Florida, there will be increasing wind shear associated with the westerly winds driving Wilma that will inhibit intensification. In addition, Wilma will only have a day or so to intensify, as the westerly winds will accelerate her to a forward speed of about 30 mph once she approaches Florida. Wilma's likely intensity once she reaches Florida is tropical storm to Category 3 strength.


Figure 2. Storm surge map for the southwest coast of Florida.

What kind of storm surge might affect Florida?
One can see from the storm surge map above that the southwest coast of Florida is very prone to high storm surges. This is because the Continental Shelf extends about 100 miles offshore, creating a very shallow area for the storm surge waters to build up in. If Wilma does hit the southwest coast of Florida as a Category 3 hurricane, which is the upper end of the intensity I think is likely, a 10 - 16 foot storm surge could flood most of Naples and all of Marco. Given the expected high forward speed of the hurricane at landfall in Florida--25 to 30 mph--regions to the south side of where the eye makes landfall will receive far greater wind damage and storm surge than is typical for a hurricane.

After Florida, then what?
After crossing Florida, Wilma is threat to the northern Bahama Islands. Wilma should pass well offshore North Carolina, but close enough to bring tropical storm force winds to the Outer Banks. Wilma is expected to merge with a large low pressure system as she approaches Maine of Nova Scotia about five days from now, and could bring tropical storm force winds to New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

I'll be back this afternoon about 4 pm EDT with an update on the latest, and post a storm surge map for the Keys if I can locate one.

Jeff Masters

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216. NOLAinNC
6:23 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Whoa, a scam? As someone who owns
and operates a website, I can attest to
the fact that it costs money to provide
content, program features, maintain
features, host the site, protect the site,
store all these blogs and comments, etc.
etc. etc. They are also offering benefits
for your membership dues. Bottled water
is a scam, this is commerce. Just my 2 cents.
Plus they seem like nice folks.
215. code1
1:23 PM CDT on October 20, 2005
windnwaves, sorry for you, don't send $. Not a housewife here, healthcare consultant, and make at least $40K more per year than ex-hubby. Very self sufficient. Like some, you are a user and abuser.
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214. ricstevenson
6:17 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
it's not wobbling that i can see. the eye (and the entire area of the wole storm) is egg shaped so everytime the longer side swings up, everyone cries out "WOBBLE" and then when it slides back down to the west side everyone screams "IT'S HITTING LAND"

gosh ppl.... be concerned and keep your eye out but man, do you have to say the sky is falling every five minutes?

wait until doc gives an update or something actually DOES change. heck, it isn't even gonna hit cozumel (if it does) until TOMORROW!

anyway, back to work for me. i may be on the sw coast of fla.. but i still have a job and BETTER things to do until i need to do something else
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213. NOLAinNC
6:10 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
I'm in, code!
212. code1
1:15 PM CDT on October 20, 2005
Sorry for the double, computer went down for a minute and I hit send again while trying to copy to Leftyy's blog (red cheeks here).
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211. dcw
6:22 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
I'm in Central FL, and I'd bet on cancellations monday...given her current insanely large TS wind field, we'll still have those winds even long after she moves off the east coast!
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210. Skyepony (Mod)
6:17 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
waves are to 12ft. Link. Upper right there's a button to loop it. last frame the waves directly under switched to a NNE direction. Looks like she'd tryin to thread the needle, but she might scrap some on the left.
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208. palmbeacher
6:20 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
7 days I wouldn't hold your breath
for any pbc school closings unless its
a cat 4 on our doorstep! (I am exagerrating, but
thats the way it seems!)
207. dcw
6:14 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Shes moving northward...good for Yucatan, bad for FL...think it's a wobble?

Link
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206. code1
1:03 PM CDT on October 20, 2005
TO ALL WU BLOGGERS:

I just sent in my $5 to WU. (For all who have already done so, disregard post.) I am sure you agree that we have all been done a great service, especially the last several months, by the WU team. I think the least we can do is ante up the $5. They did not have to set this forum up for us and we have all benefited from the knowledge and fellowship of many. Before posts are written back about affordability....if you have a computer and internet access, you can afford $5. Also, there is at least five more (possibly/probably more with this crazy year) weeks of tropical weather, plus winter coming on for those of you up north. This comes out to $1 week just for the next 5 weeks, not including the past nor future. Tell me where else you can find this value. No, I am not paid by WU, just think it is the right thing for all of us to do. I know it is the best 5 bucks I have spent! It helps WU, which in turn, helps all of us. Sorry for off topic and interruption of Wilma, just felt it needed to be said. ANTE UP EVERYONE!TO ALL WU BLOGGERS:

I just sent in my $5 to WU. (For all who have already done so, disregard post.) I am sure you agree that we have all been done a great service, especially the last several months, by the WU team. I think the least we can do is ante up the $5. They did not have to set this forum up for us and we have all benefited from the knowledge and fellowship of many. Before posts are written back about affordability....if you have a computer and internet access, you can afford $5. Also, there is at least five more (possibly/probably more with this crazy year) weeks of tropical weather, plus winter coming on for those of you up north. This comes out to $1 week just for the next 5 weeks, not including the past nor future. Tell me where else you can find this value. No, I am not paid by WU, just think it is the right thing for all of us to do. I know it is the best 5 bucks I have spent! It helps WU, which in turn, helps all of us. Sorry for off topic and interruption of Wilma, just felt it needed to be said. ANTE UP EVERYONE!
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205. Skyepony (Mod)
6:07 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Found this a few day ago 7 been watchin it ~ Maximum potential Huricane Intensity Link ~ Loks like she's sucked up a little of the potential over the last 3 days, but there's plenty of energy still out there. Looks good for Alfa.
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204. Pensacola21
6:12 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
If you find some please let me know.

Thanks =)
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 3912
203. 7daysnopowerfrancis
6:10 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
I just got an email stating that school and normal after school activities will occur tomorrow in PB County....

I just wish I knew if it was going to hit us, how strong it was going to be, and how long I was going to be without power....:)
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202. palmbeacher
6:10 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
I know Stormy, AAHHHHHH!!
201. coastie24
6:11 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
I can't find any INVEST models for the blob. But, I'm still searching.
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200. Pensacola21
6:10 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
*track models*
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 3912
199. caymanbreeze
6:03 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Apart from the idots playing on concrete docks on the front (and in the surf!!) no reason for danger to persons here at this stage (although if this thing 'bounces' off the YP and takes a slightly more southerly track than presently I reckon that our West coast up to North West Point could be in for some more punishment from waves (7 mile beach shrinkage again - some of it was washing up onto the road yesterday and they had the section of the West Bay Road by public beach blocked off this morning so presume it took more last night /early this am - Ivan put the sand back last year..Wilma seems to want to spread it around again!!!)
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198. Pensacola21
6:09 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Coastie or anyone alse - Have you seen any early investigation models for the blob?
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 3912
197. stormydee
6:09 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
palmbeacher, and she slowed...now will she stall? That is what I am hoping for....
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 39 Comments: 517
196. westcoastfla
6:08 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
in anyones opinion if she starts going north now will the turn be sooner or later? ie: south florida or central florida hit just curious to opinions
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
195. hoochbear
6:04 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Prediction:
(1)poor souls on the Yucatan. pray for them.
for Wilma to go thru the Y passage then break up to TS
flip back off western Cuba
(2)if strength left, toward Bahamas,
Keys, S Florida ashore at TS to Cat 2.
about like the models.
(3)Wilma is unpredictable.
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194. VeroBeachNative
6:05 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
WANTED:

Hurricane Proof Bunker - willing to pay any price just for the peace of mind...

I am such a Florida girl...but I don't know if I can handle much more of this, especially with a little one to think about.
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193. coastie24
6:05 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Accuweather states that development of the wave along 57 west could develop as shear has decreased. This could be our ALPHA Blob.
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192. Pensacola21
6:08 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Uh oh Dee
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 3912
191. Pensacola21
6:07 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Ferret I think we are safe this time (including MS/LA) =)
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 3912
190. stormydee
6:03 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Note that 11Am and 2PM, it did not move any further W...she may be on a trend....
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 39 Comments: 517
189. ferretnose
5:54 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Hi, I'm new here- from South Mississippi. We are still trying to recover from Katrina here. The population of our small town has tripled, and there's very few places to shop, and there isn't much to be had for groceries at all. I am wondering if there is still the possibility that Wilma may hit the LA/MS coast. We have a very good hurricane kit, but I am debating on whether to go out and buy even more in case this hits. You know, meats and stuff- which we can keep our freezer going with the genny. I also wonder whether I should fill up all our gas cans, which I really can't afford to do, but will if I have to. I've got about 10 gallons currently. Because it's already a madhouse around here, I don't want to be caught off guard. Everyone here is saying "oh no, there's no way it's coming here, I'm not worried at all", but that's the sort of thinking that caused such huge problems with Katrina aftermath in this area.
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188. wadcane
5:57 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Couple comments.
The latest advisory (2.00PM) points Wilma at 18.6N/85.5W
The 11:00 AM advisory pointed Wilma at 18.4N/85.5W
This tells me Wilma is moving due NORTH at 5mph

Also the TWC channel stated watching a blob SE of PR. Could this be APPHA???
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187. palmbeacher
6:02 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Stay safe caymanbreeze.
186. palmbeacher
6:00 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Vero, waiting, and when I am done I'll be
waiting some more. Dean just said moving NW 5 mph
185. Pensacola21
5:58 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Thanks for the good info for us on the Panhandle... I just hate that it will hit near you guys in the South...
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 3912
184. VeroBeachNative
5:55 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Hey Palmbeacher -

I am wishing and hoping and praying...but not sure what for. You don't want to wish this on anyone else...but if you wish it away it has to go somewhere....

How are you??

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183. palmbeacher
5:54 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
hey vero, how you holding up?
182. caymanbreeze
5:52 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Very strong wave action hitting south and southeast coasts of Grand Cayman hard. main Road to West of Island passable only with care and against police advice. Reports of some waterfront properties losing docks etc...and just look how far we are away!!
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181. VeroBeachNative
5:50 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Looks like Wilma is headed NW at 5MPH now...
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180. toddrix
5:45 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Is anyone considering the increased forward speed in their intensity predictions? I would think that the increased forward speed would make this a possible low end cat 4 in Florida, assuming Wilma doesn't weaken over the Yucatan.
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179. palmbeacher
5:48 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
meant for not you. Typo queen!
178. palmbeacher
5:45 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
I got it code 1 thanks, I thought it was something major
for us in the south. Sorry. But thats great you the
panhandlers
177. code1
12:41 PM CDT on October 20, 2005
palmbeacher, I had emailed him early this morning about wobbles, stalls, westerlies coming in later, etc. asked about our area and reply was at most 1 in 1000 chance of panhandle hit.
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176. TampaWeatherBuff
5:41 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
If you look here:

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/TROP/DATA/RT/float-ir4-loop.html

and click on the Trop Fcst Pts checkbox, you'll see that she is currently going a bit the RIGHT of the short term guidance.

I bet her eye doesn't smack into the Yucatan at all, she looks to be pulling north.

Obviously she's a bit wobbly, but if you look at the clouds all around they seem to be lifting north.

I'm still holding out hope for a more northerly course. ;)
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175. gbreezegirl
5:37 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Palmbeacher- on Lefty's blog:
Dunno about the ant hills guys. In the panhandle here, and they are becoming more numerous and larger here as wellin the last few days. May just be a fall issue with them. Dr. M stated "the panhandle has a 1 in 1000 chance of being hit at most".
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174. raindancer
5:35 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
TFITCH - Everything hinges on the placement of the eye when it makes landfall... The storm surge will be on the right, front side of the eye as it comes ashore. So, if it landfalls directly over Ft Myers, then Charlotte County may briefly see a swell as the storm nears, but it is more likely that Charlotte Harbor will begin to drain as the storm pushes water out. Charlotte County would still endure high winds and rain - but nothing like south Ft Myers and points towards Naples.
Member Since: September 14, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 79
173. mostormspotter
5:34 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
Though I am a wobble watcher. Wilma has wobbled to the north for the last three frames. Combine that with her slow down and I am betting that her turn has begun, keeping her with in the NHC's track. So a graze of the Yucatan is still a possible scenario, Right?
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172. code1
12:33 PM CDT on October 20, 2005
My post on Leftyy's blog. gbreeze got it.
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171. TFITCH941
5:30 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
What do you think the likelyhood of a hit to the Charlotte / Sarasota county area? If the storm hits to the south of that area (Fort Myers) then Charlotte / Sarasota will not see much of anything???? I am a little confused....could you please explain?

Thanks!
TFITCH941
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170. palmbeacher
5:34 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
code1 can you please show me what you are talking about?
(and no offense taken, if your out of the woods that's great!)
169. code1
12:23 PM CDT on October 20, 2005
Awesome LdyAvalon, thanks for sharing. Takes some of the edge off. BTW to those in Central-So. FL, hope no one was offended by my use of happy days, just meant for those of us up here. (Any who have watched the past year can surely understand.) Prayers and thoughts to all affected.
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168. palmbeacher
5:30 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
yeah code1 where is it?
167. stormydee
5:29 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
I mean W
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 39 Comments: 517
166. stormydee
5:25 PM GMT on October 20, 2005
It appears Wilma is staying just E of the 85 Link...if that is the case, she may finally be making that northerly turn that is well overdue...
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 39 Comments: 517

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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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