Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:04 PM GMT on October 24, 2005
Wilma's eye has moved out to sea offshore the coast of Florida, but remains a dangerous Category 2 hurricane with top winds of 105 mph. Wilma will continue to generate hurricane force winds, flooding, and isolated tornadoes until late afternoon over much of southern Florida. The highest winds measured so far in association with Wilma were at Fowey Rocks on Key Largo south of Miami. That station measured sustained winds of 101 mph, gusting to 123 mph, at 8 am EDT.
Despite being subjected to 30 knots of wind shear on her southwest side last night, Wilma was large enough to be able to intensify in spite of the shear. She smashed ashore near Marco, Florida at 6:30 am EDT this morning as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph. Wilma raced across southern Florida at 25 mph, crossing the state in just four hours. The large 65 mile diameter eye brought up to an hour of calm to locations along its path, and passed directly over West Palm Beach. Winds there never fell below 23 mph, though, so the "calm" was only relative. Sustained winds at the West Palm Beach airport reached 82 mph, with gusts to 101 mph, at 9:10 am. The automated weather station reported snow at this time, but this was not really the case!
Here are the maximum sustained winds and gusts (in mph) measured so far in the storm. Wilma is slowly weakening due to wind shear and cooler waters, so we have probably seen her highest winds:
Miami: 67 gust 91 8:30am
West Palm Beach: 82 gust 100 9:10 am
Fort Lauderdale: 69 gust 96 10:53 am
Pompano Beach: 83 gust 120 mph 8:48 am
Alligator Alley, west of US 27: 85 gust 104 8:19 am
Grand Bahama: 95 gust 111 12:00 pm
Naples: 80 gust 97 8:30 am
Key Largo: 101 gust 123 8:00 am
A tornado was reported near Cape Canaveral this morning, and several tornado signatures have been detected on radar. The threat of tornadoes is quite high for this hurricane, due to the presence of a cold front on the north side.
Figure 1.Storm total rainfall from the Tampa radar. Rainfalls amounts of up to 10 inches have been measured, mostly to the north of the Wilma's track.
Where will Wilma go?
Wilma will race northeastward off the coast, bringing winds of 35 - 45 mph to North Carolina's Outer Banks today, and 2 - 4 inches of rain. Already, one to two inches of rain has fallen over much of eastern North Carolina. On Tuesday, Wilma will transition to a powerful 'Noreaster storm for New England, bringing sustained winds of 40 - 50 mph over the waters near Cape Cod. A storm surge of 1 - 3 feet with 20 foot waves is expected to cause minor flooding along the coast of Massachusetts. As Wilma continues northeast on Wednesday, New Brunswick and Newfoundland will experience tropical storm force winds, heavy rain, and coastal flooding.
The airport and the runway at Key West's Naval Air Station are under water and up to 35% of the land area of Key West suffered inundation from Wilma's storm surge. The damage to the Keys and the rest of Florida is still unclear, but undoubtedly is tens of billions of dollars. It is also still to early to gauge Wilma's impact on Mexico. Reports are not in yet from the hardest hit areas, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, which is a bad sign. Wilma caused heavy damage in Havana, where huge waves pushed flood waters up to four blocks inland, and flooded the city up to three feet deep. Damage to Haiti, Jamaica, Honduras, and Belize was also substantial. I'll have more detailed damage statistics when they become available. Including the damage done to Mexico, Wilma will probably be the second most costly hurricane of all time, next to Katrina.
Tropical Depression Alpha survived its encounter with Hispanolia, and brought 30 mph winds and 1 - 2 inches of rain to the Turks and Caicos Islands last night and this morning. Strong winds blowing over Alpha from the circulation of Hurricane Wilma will destroy Alpha later today. At least five people were killed in Haiti due to flash floods triggered by Alpha, and this total is likely to go higher. However, Alpha only dropped about 4 - 8 inches of rain over Haiti--not enough to trigger a massive flooding disaster like occurred during Hurricane Jeanne last year.
I'll post an update late this afternoon. Special thanks go to the National Hurricane Center and the local Florida National Weather Service offices, whose reports I rely on very heavily for my blog posts! They are working very hard through this storm while their families and homes are being threatened.
Comments will take a few seconds to appear.