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 , 10:01 PM GMT on October 24, 2005
Wilma continues to confound forecasters, and has intensified once more into a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, despite wind shear levels that would normally barely support a hurricane. In fact, Wilma is close to Category 4 status--the 5 pm hurricane hunter flight found winds at 10,000 feet of 157 mph, which normally translates to a surface wind of 140 mph--Category 4 winds. Wilma is over the Gulf Stream, which has warm water temperatures of 28 C capable of supporting a major hurricane. Wilma is racing northeast at 40 mph away from Florida, but is still bringing tropical storm force wind gusts to both the east and west coasts of Florida. A wind gust of 39 mph was measured at Naples at 4 pm EDT today.
Here are the maximum sustained winds and gusts (in mph) measured during Wilma:
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
And some peak wind gusts:
Naples EMO: 121 mph
Ochopee, Collier County: 105 mph
Everglades City: 97 mph
Opa Locka: 105 mph
Everglades National Park: 112 mph
Doral: 111 mph
National Hurricane Center: 104 mph
Boynton Beach: 103 mph
Wilma will race northeastward off the coast, but spare North Carolina her fury. Only 20 - 30 mph winds are expected on the Outer Banks tonight, and the moderate rain now falling across eatern North Carolina will end by 4 am Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Wilma will dramatically affect New England's weather. A separate powerful Nor'easter storm will develop next to the coast of New England on Tuesday, and moisture feeding back from Wilma into the Nor'easter will drench much of Rhode Island, southeast Massachusetts, and surrounding areas with 2 - 4 inches of rain. Winds from the combined Nor'easter/Wilma storm will reach sustained levels of 40 - 50 mph over the waters near Cape Cod, and bring wind gusts of 50 mph to New York City, Providence, and Boston. A storm surge of 1 - 3 feet with 20 foot waves is expected to cause moderate flooding along the coast of southeast Massachusetts. As Wilma continues northeast on Wednesday, New Brunswick and Newfoundland will experience tropical storm force winds, heavy rain, and coastal flooding.
Downtown Clewiston, next to Lake Okeechobee, suffered extensive damage. 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 preliminary estimates of the total insured plus uninsured damage are $4 - $18 billion. It is also too early to gauge Wilma's impact on Mexico. Between 30-40% of the population in Cancun has suffered some damage to their housing. 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. Including the damage done to Mexico and the rest of the Caribbean, Wilma will probably be the second most costly hurricane of all time, next to Katrina.
Alpha is no more, destroyed by big sister Wilma's strong winds. In Haiti, eight are dead from flooding and mudslides triggered by Alpha's 4 - 8 inches of rain. At least 400 homes were destroyed, and twenty-three people have been reported missing, including 19 who were swept away by floodwaters in the town of Leogane, west of the capital.
Three people are missing from floods in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
New England residents, take note: it's now Nor'easter season! A second Nor'easter is expected to significantly impact the area on Sunday, bringing high winds, heavy rain, and the threat of coastal flooding from North Carolina to Maine. I'll be back Tuesday morning to discuss the current Nor'easter and Wilma, plus the outlook for Sunday's Nor'easter. Hurricane season is close to ending; it's time to start thinking about winter storms.
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