Wilma: nightmare for Mexico

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:44 PM GMT on October 20, 2005

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Hurricane Wilma made its expected turn northwest, and is now headed towards Cozumel Island as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane capable of massive destruction. A new hurricane hunter plane arrived at the center at 2:45 pm EDT, and found a central pressure of 918 mb and surface winds of 150 mph. The 4:16 pm report had the same pressure and winds, so Wilma has leveled out in intensity. Wilma has completed an eyewall replacement cycle, and now has a large 40 mile diameter eye. Some intensification is likely the next 18 hours before Wilma comes ashore in the Yucatan. It is possible Wilma can eclipse its record 882 mb pressure, but she probably will not have enough time to do that.


FIgure 1. Topography of the ocean bottom. Where a long expanse of shallow waters over the Continental Shelf (light blue) exist next to the coast, one can expect increased storm surge potential. The waters off the coast of Cancun/Cozumel are quite deep, limiting the maximum potential storm surge to about 11 feet. The Continental Shelf is quite extensive off the west coast of Florida, making that region prone to large storm surges. Image credit: NOAA.

Wilma's impact on Mexico
Wilma's impact on Mexico is likely to be catastrophic. A 50-mile wide stretch of coast will receive Category 4 to 5 sustained winds of over 150 mph, causing incredible damage. As Wilma sits in place for two days, the long duration of high winds will cause far more damage than a quickly moving storm would. The long duration extreme winds will probably cause some of the worst wind damage ever seen in a hurricane. The storm surge will not be as much as a problem, because deep water just offshore will prevent a huge storm surge from piling up. Still, the expected storm surge of up to 11 feet will cause widespread damage to coastal structures.In adddition, rainfall amounts of 15 - 25 will cause serious flooding. Wilma is likely to be Mexico's worst weather disaster in history.


Figure 2. Computer model tracks for Hurricane Wilma.

Where will Wilma go?
A trough of low pressure moving across the central U.S. has turned Wilma more to the northwest today, on a track towards Cozumel Island. The lastest 12Z (8am EDT) runs of all four major models used to track hurricanes--the GFS, GFDL, NOGAPS, and UKMET--agree on a landfall on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Friday, followed by a one to two day period of slow and erratic movement over land. By Sunday, strong westerly winds fill in behind the trough and pick up Wilma, and move her across South Florida by Monday. Once Wilma does make the crossing from Mexico to Florida, I expect little change in strength. While the waters are still warm enough to support intensification, this will be offset by increasing wind shear associated with the westerly winds driving Wilma.

How believable is all this? As we've seen many times this hurricane season, when the models come into alignment, it's usually a good sign that the forecast is correct. This is particularly true when data from the NOAA jet is used to initialize the models, which is the case here. However, in a case where the steering currents are weak, there is much less confidence. In addition, just a small 100 mile error in forecast means the difference between Wilma staying over warm waters and maintaining its intensity, or moving ashore and weakening significantly. The Canadian model (which has not performed well with Wilma) is forecasting that she will stay primarily over water the next three days.

Given all these factors, I'd give Wilma a 10% chance of arriving on the Florida west coast as a Category 3 or higher storm, 20% as a Category 2, 40% as a Category 1, and 30% as a tropical storm. On Florida's east coast, knock these value down by half a Category (10 - 15 mph).

After Florida, then what?
There is no change to the forecast. 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 or Nova Scotia next week, and could bring tropical storm force winds to Cape Cod, Maine, and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

What's behind Wilma?
There is a large area of disorganized thunderstorms near 12N 57W, about 300 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Wind shear is too high to permit development of this area over the next day or two.

I'll be back tomorrow with the lastest. For those of you in Florida looking for storm surge maps of your county, check out the floridadisaster.org website.

Jeff Masters

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376. Haiyan2013
7:51 PM GMT on January 15, 2014
After the 2013 season it's hard to remember all the storms in 2005.
Member Since: January 8, 2014 Posts: 0 Comments: 343
375. SunshineStateFLA
2:33 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
LdyAvalon,

I think there is a potential that after making the turn (which should take 12-18 hours), the storm will "race" toward the peninsula, perhaps as rapidly as 16 mph. If so, I believe the mainland will be looking at an all-day Sunday event, as opposed to an early morning Monday event.

374. taco2me61
2:30 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Ldy,
There could be 2 things that could make Wilma move faster or slower...

1: If the Cold Front dips down far enough it could pick up wilma and move her a lot faster to the east northeast might even miss FL...

2: As we all know if the cold front stalls or does not come down far enough ussally a High Pressure builds in after the front and could very well send wilma to the west or just stalls her for just days...

Now I am NOT saying this will happen but with all do respect to the NHC they have not gotten the track right and anything could happen...
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
373. CoconutCreekFLA
2:28 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
new post
372. CoconutCreekFLA
2:27 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
With this storm, nothing would surprise me
371. LdyAvalon
2:26 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
i predict wilma will skirt south of the keys go north into the atlantic make a loop east of the treasure coast and come onshore right above my house late next week...j/k people.but boy wouldn't that be something
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
370. scuba4me
2:25 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Dr. Masters' info on why storm surge might be less of a problem for Quintana Roo cites the close deeper offshore area as a benefit. Unfortunately, the area between Cozumel and the peninsula has deteriorated in the last 10 years, partly due to past storms. Anyone have info about the effects on underwater environment of the surge? past canes in this area have knocked out or silted over lots of corals and sponges.
369. CoconutCreekFLA
2:24 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Hope so, it seems that there were two main scenarios:

1. Hard hit on Yucatan beats up wilma and she hobbles over here.

2. Just brushes Yucatan (I use the word "just" loosely b/c this is a bad storm and they will be hard hit) and comes at us much stronger.

It seems like it is closer to option #2.
368. LdyAvalon
2:22 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
lmao coconut.that's what it feels like..i told myself i would only buy one pack of cigarettes for the storm yesterday and after it was through i would quit..well i think i'm gonna smoke the whole thing before it gets here lol
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
367. palmbeacher
2:22 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
shouldn't our fearless leader Dr. Masters
be putting out an update soon?
366. VeroBeachNative
2:21 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Coconut Creek - LOL!! It is certainly beginning to feel that way!
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 63
365. palmbeacher
2:21 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
LMAO coconut!
364. CoconutCreekFLA
2:20 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Avalon: I predict we will start feeling Wilma by Thanksgiving. :)
363. LdyAvalon
2:19 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
radio update just said expect storm here late sunday early monday.which one is it already lol
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
362. palmbeacher
2:18 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Thanks coconut
361. LdyAvalon
2:17 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
so sunshine you don't think it will stall? when do you think fl landfall will be?
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
360. LdyAvalon
2:15 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
no i didn't taco
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
359. CoconutCreekFLA
2:15 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
10:00 a.m. Miami NWS statement:

.PREVIOUS DISCUSSION...TROPICAL MOISTURE ALREADY BEING ADVECTED
NORTHWARD INTO SOUTH FLORIDA IN ADVANCE OF HURRICANE WILMA. RADAR
SHOWS SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ARE FAIRLY NUMEROUS IN COVERAGE
ACROSS THE KEYS...MOVING NORTH. THESE WILL OVERSPREAD SOUTH FLORIDA
THIS MORNING. MADE NO MAJOR CHANGES TO THE FORECAST THIS
PACKAGE...OTHER THAN TO EXTEND THE HIGH POPS INTO MONDAY NIGHT WHICH
IS INLINE WITH LATEST FORECAST TRACK OF WILMA. IT APPEARS WILMA WILL
BE SOMEWHERE IN THE SOUTHEAST GULF OF MEXICO SUNDAY NIGHT...CROSSING
SOUTH FLORIDA MONDAY MORNING (PERHAPS IN THE EARLY MORNING
HOURS)...AND EMERGING INTO THE ATLANTIC AS A WEAKENING TROPICAL
CYCLONE UNDERGOING AN EXTRATROPICAL TRANSITION. EXACT POSITIONING OF
ALL HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH A HURRICANE ARE STILL DIFFICULT TO
PINPOINT. AT THIS MOMENT...THE POTENTIAL FOR HEAVY RAIN SEEMS
SOMEWHAT LIMITED BY THE RAPID PACE OF THE SYSTEM WHILE HEAVIEST
PRECIP SHOULD FAVOR NORTH OF TRACK...MORE REMINISCENT OF A
DEVELOPING BAROCLINIC SYSTEM. GIVEN PRESENT FORECAST TRACK...THIS
WOULD BE MORE OVER CENTRAL FLORIDA. SOUTH FLORIDA WILL HAVE ENOUGH
TO CONTEND WITH AS STORM SURGE...WINDS...AND POSSIBLY TORNADOES
APPEAR TO BE OUR GREATEST HAZARDS. CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST
ADVISORIES FROM THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER FOR ADDITIONAL DETAILS
ON THIS WEATHER SITUATION.

CONDITIONS SHOULD RAPIDLY IMPROVE BY TUESDAY AS SYSTEM RAPIDLY
EJECTS NORTHEASTWARD TOWARD THE NORTH ATLANTIC. SURGE OF COOL AND
DRY AIR BEHIND THE HURRICANE WILL FINISH OUT THE WEEK WITH WHAT
SHOULD BE THE FIRST FALL LIKE WEATHER OF THE SEASON.
358. SunshineStateFLA
2:15 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Posting from Miami, FL: I lived through (and later studied)Andrew in '92 and most recently dealt with Katrina (phase 1). I studied meteorology and atmospheric sciences in college and I have to say that I disagree with the notion that Wilma will track north of the NHC forecast. The storm's steady northward movement and apparent lack of stalling out leads me to think that it will continue as is for the next 24 hours, positioning it less than 150 miles north of its current position, off the NE coast of Yucatan. At that point, the storm will meet the trough which will force it to make a slow turn toward the NNE, then NE. Eventually, I see Wilma moving ENE with landfall somewhere between Flamingo and Naples, probably near Everglades City/Chokoloskee.
357. cajunkid
2:13 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Anyone remember how strong Emily was when she hit Cancun?
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1281
356. WeatherWeasel
2:13 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
I'm off Gatlin Blvd, closer to I-95 than you.
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 1 Comments: 50
355. taco2me61
2:12 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Ldy, did you get your answer to your question???
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
354. cajunkid
2:12 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
she is impressive, too bad she is raking to whole resort area
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1281
353. Hecker
2:12 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
<<<<
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 309
352. Hecker
2:10 PM GMT on October 21, 2005


.img src="
http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/dataphod1/work/HHP/NEW/2005293god26.png">
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 309
351. Hecker
2:09 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Sorry for the typos! try again:
img src="
http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/dataphod1/work/HHP/NEW/2005293god26.png">
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 309
350. Hecker
2:06 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Here are the sea surface temperature and 26 degree isotherm charts for the Gulf. As Wilma makes the turn we all expect and heads east, the warm water east of Havana starts to get thin. How much strength Wilma maintains will become dependent on forward speed: the more slowly she moves, the more she will well cold water up from below and choke herself. The models I have seen suggest a rapid acceleration after the turn, but we shall see.




img src="
http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/dataphod1/work/HHP/NEW/2005293god26.png">
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 309
349. taco2me61
2:01 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Sonny,
Thank You for your comment on this storm... I have always said this, If you live any where on the gulf coast that we all should be ready for the unexpected. We never know what these storms will do untill they pass... Now I know south fl is the target and my heart goes out to all of them but it still could go any where...

Taco
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
348. LdyAvalon
2:00 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
hi weatherweasel. where in port st lucie are u? i'm by southbend lakes.psl blvd and the turnpike
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
347. WeatherWeasel
1:58 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Greetings, all. I'm also new to the blog, and I am located in Port St. Lucie, Florida. We had some nasty thunderstorms this morning. As to shutters, mine will go up tonight or tomorrow, thunderstorms permitting. As someone else said, rain I can deal with, wind is another matter. I lost my place to Frances last year, and moved to this place just 2 days before Jeanne. So I was putting up shutters the morning before Jeanne hit. That was not pleasant, even moderate wind makes it VERY hard to hold onto the shutters or plywood.

BTW, thanks to everyone here for all the info and links. I run a communications center for a private corporation, and the info I have found here is better than some of the "offical" sites.
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 1 Comments: 50
346. LdyAvalon
1:55 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
is there any links to check on the low pressure system that is suppose to pull away and make it stall?
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
345. weatherdude65
1:54 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
ldy, anything is possible with this system..my thinking is that she does not stall, makes it further north and thus the track is adjusted north as well....just my un-scientific guess
344. buckeyefan1
1:52 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Sonny, you're right! It's not over until it's gone! She can do almost anything she wants to. It's so hard to tell what Wilma will do past 24 hrs!
343. buckeyefan1
1:50 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
LOVE spaghettios!!! My favorite food!! I think food is my favorite food!! LOL
342. LdyAvalon
1:49 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
i asked this eralier and didn't get a response.what are the chances this thing doesn't stall and slams florida sooner rather then later?
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
341. palmbeacher
1:48 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Sounds good to me Ldy!lol
340. gbreezegirl
1:47 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Sonny - good information in your post. I feel as you do that everyone around here is being way too complacent and have let their guard down as the forecast thusfar has been so consistent with South Florida and the models.
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 274
339. LdyAvalon
1:47 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
well maybe this extra time will give publix time to get more spaghettios
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
338. palmbeacher
1:47 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
and not in a good way!
337. weatherdude65
1:46 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
morning buckeye Yeah TGIF!!
336. LdyAvalon
1:46 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
i think tonight i'll just start drinking heavily and sleep through the weekend.wake up in time for landfall lol
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
335. palmbeacher
1:45 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Yeah, she is such a tease
334. weatherdude65
1:44 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
morning palmbeacher, ldy....gotta love this wait and see game that Wilam is playing with us
333. buckeyefan1
1:44 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
morning dude!!! TGIF
332. weatherdude65
1:43 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
hey coconut
331. LdyAvalon
1:42 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
morning dude
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
330. palmbeacher
1:42 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
morning weatherdude
329. palmbeacher
1:41 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
early tuesday.
328. LdyAvalon
1:40 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
if this doesn't stall like they think it will when would fl landfall be?
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
327. CoconutCreekFLA
1:37 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Hi, dude!
326. VeroBeachNative
1:37 PM GMT on October 21, 2005
Can anyone tell me what the "current" projected time of landfall in FL is? I heard something about Tuesday? Is that right?
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 63

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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.