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Wilma smashes ashore near Marco Island

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 11:37 AM GMT on October 24, 2005

Wilma smashed ashore near Marco, Florida at 6:30 am EDT this morning as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph. The Hurricane Season of 2005 continues to rewrite the rules, as Wilma maintained an impressive intensification phase right up until landfall in the face of very significant wind shear--up to 30 knots. Current Miami radar shows that the southwest side of Wilma is being strongly affected by this wind shear--the echoes are much less intense on that side.

Figure 1. Latest Miami radar shows strong convection on the east side of Wilma, but weak echoes on the southwest side where wind shear is affecting the storm.

Wilma's forward speed is 23 mph, up from 20 mph just one hour ago. Due to the fast forward speed, this will be a short but very intense hurricane event for South Florida. Hurricane force winds extend out about 80 miles from Wilma's center, so the longest duration of hurricane-force winds will occur on the coast at Marco, where about five hours of hurricane force winds will occur. Hurricane force winds will begin by 10 am near West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and continue for about four hours. Intereaction with land and high wind shear will weaken Wilma as she crosses Florida, but Wilma is expected to be a Category 2 hurricane as she crosses the east coast of Florida. Sustained winds of 95 mph with gusts to 120 mph are possible along the east coast of Florida near and to the south of the eye, primarily before the eye crosses the coast. Winds should be a full 20 mph weaker when the back side of the hurricane hits, as wind shear is substantially affecting the storm's rear portion. A period of calm of up to an hour can be expected along the center of Wilma's track. If you must go outside during that period, realize that the winds can go from calm to 100 mph in just one minute when the back side of the hurricane moves over you. If you are near the edge of the eye, the calm period may last only a few minutes, so do not venture far from safety if you must go outside.

Wind reports
Reports are no longer available from Key West International Airport due to communications outage. Winds there were 60 mph gusting to 76 mph before the failure. Recent peak wind gust reports from other gauges include 120 mph at 453 am on Cudjoe Key, 101 mph at Sombrero Key at 449 am, and 74 mph at Long Key at 455 am. By 10 am EDT hurricane force winds should end in the Keys.

The wind at Naples at 553 am was north at 56 mph gusting to 75 mph, Miami had 60 mph gusting to 74 mph at 7:34 am, Fort Lauderdale had 51 mph gusting to 73 mph at 7:16 am, and West Palm Beach had winds of 43 mph gusting to 54 at 6:53 am. Several tornados signatures have been detected on radar, and the threat of tornadoes is quite high for this hurricane, due to the presence of a cold front on the north side of the hurricane.

Storm Surge
A storm tide of up to 13 to 18 feet is now occurring on the mainland, south of Naples. Fortunately, this area is mostly uninhabited Evergaldes swamp. The surge is causing extensive flooding of local access roads to Marco Island, Everglades City, and Chokoloskee including state roads 92, 951, 953 and 29 and large parts of the Tamiami Trail U.S. Highway 41. Everglades City is likely flooded or will be shortly, and parts of Chokoloskee and Marco Island are also likely flooded. Further north along the Collier County coast, a storm tide of 7 to 9 feet is occurring from north of Marco Island to South Naples. Since the wind flow is offshore at Naples much lower storm tides are occurring from Naples north to Bonita Beach. Fort Myers has dodged a major bullet, and will be spared significant storm surge damage, and will receive only moderate wind damage at Category 1 hurricane levels.

A storm tide of 8 to 13 feet above mean sea level is now occurring on Cape Sable and in Flamingo. Much of Flamingo is now likely flooded. Along the Atlantic coast of Miami-Dade County, particularly Biscayne Bay, tides are running 2 to 3 feet above normal. A storm tide of 3 to 5 feet above mean sea level can be expected around 8 to 9 am EDT, with slightly higher amounts possible in canals and waterways. South winds will pile some water into the north end of Biscayne Bay causing some flooding of causeways and low lying beach access roads for a short time from early to mid morning Monday. Some flooding from surge will occur in low lying areas of Matheson Hammock and Fairchild Tropical Gardens and parts of Coral Gables and Coconut Grove and along the mouth of the Miami River. Flooding of low lying areas on the Bay sides of Key Biscayne and Virginia Key can also be expected. Over the Broward and Palm Beach County coasts, storm tides of 2 to 3 feet can be expected mid morning.

For Lake Okeechobee, a storm surge of 5 to 7 feet above Current Lake levels is expected from early morning to around noon Monday over areas inside the dike from Lakeport to Clewiston, with 2 to 5 feet above current lake levels
elsewhere from Buckhead Ridge south to Lakeport, and from Clewiston through Port Mayaca. This will cause some flooding of low areas outside Hoover Dike protection including Torry, Kreamer, and Ritta islands and some access roads.

I'll post an update later this morning. 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.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Wow. Cant believe it stay so strong!
Quite a storm.

R.I.P. Wilma
Thanks Doc, great job.

Report from the east side of No Name Key:

Minimal surge. Really not much more than a spring high tide. Had much more surge here from Rita.

Small trees down and light roof damage.

No idea about total rainfall amount, but I would say 4 to 5 inches at the most.

All in all, we made it through just fine. Slight issue with the outside cat who hates to be inside, even during a hurricane.
Raining up here in Jax, but no wind to speak of. Hope all of my fellow Floridians to the south are faring well.
Anyone have any clue how Wilma could have intenseified in a wind sheer that according to the rules (which are being rewritten as we speak).

My only theory is the sheer size and speed allow Wilma to be pushed by the winds instead of sheered apart (I know pretty shoddy theory, but its Monday morning and I haven't had my 3rd cup of expresso)
I am simply stunned by this year's hurricane activity.
And, for all those in Wilma's path, please stay safe.
Hopes and prayers to me fellow Florida bloggee's in the path of this witch (pronouce the w with a b sound). And be glad their was sheer if she could get back up to Cat 3 imagine what we could be dealing with if thier was no sheer...
from Melbourne:

driving rain..Gusts to 35 mph...scattered tornadic activity around Southeastern Brevard county.
Just to add, I was in the lower keys for Georges too, and that was a much more intense storm than Wilma. However ( a big however) Georges was basically a direct hit. We were brushed by Wilma, the worst of the hurricane force winds stayed largely to the north. Folks here in the Keys were donning their Jr. Hurricane Forecaster badges collected from cereal boxes and I think that's why so many of us stayed. We all watched this very closely, the Weather Channel makes us all look like drunks and bubbas but the truth of it is, we take these storms very seriously.

10. OGal
Thank you Dr. Masters for all your terrific blog information. We here in this household counted on your day by day up dates. University of Michigan can be proud of you and Steve Gregory for all your hard work. Let's hope that there wILL be no more major storms to hit Florida or any of our Gulf Coast neighbors this year. Again a huge THANKS!
From Key largo..... No storm surge, but no power, moderate to low wind damage.

How much longer (it is 8:15am) till we are out of the wind?
Raining pretty heavily in Charleston, SC. Not sure if this is from Wilma or the cold front that came through.
Just got a phone call from parents in PSL. Lots of wind, rain, nothing severe........yet.
I'm very surprised this thing made landfall as a CAT 3 despite the 30kt windshear. Impressive storm to say the least with lots of staying power.
Prayers to everyone in the affected areas, may this be the last cane of the season and lets hope next year is not a repeat of 2004 and 2005. Lord knows we've all had enough of this.
Living in Wales but my mom and dad are from Coral Springs... They lost power about 45 minutes ago. It's been super intense there... trees are down all over and a bit of plastic corrugating that was attached to the metal bars of the patio with 2 inch screws was torn off already. I'll post more when they get back in touch.
It sounds like the back end of Wilma was worse than the front end. I hope all of our South Florida blogger friends are OK. Any theories as to why the shear didn't weaken Wilma?
In a communications center in Palm Beach, outside its close to a whiteout off and on, lots of rain and wind. We are getting closer to the eyewall, looks like it's gonna be intense.
The landfall of Wilma into Florida was almost perfectly predicted on the NWS Advisory 10 on October 18th. The track prior to the Florida landfall was farther west than predicted and the intensity and time of arrival was off, but after being critical of previous longterm track projections, I'll have to give them credit for pinpointing the landfall into Florida six days beforehand.

Those who have been blogging about a Tampa landfall better leave the forecasting to the meteorologists.

TWC's Dr. Lyons is saying a cold front is rejuvenating the backside of Wilma.
NolainNC, heard that was mostly because traveling fast, surface winds were ahead of high winds, no stacking, so expected shear did not affect as much.
Very good points Dawg.
Hey Hydro, if you have time, what does "no stacking" mean?
palmettobug53 - I would guess both. The tropical moisture associated with Wilma is being drawn north along the cold front into the Carolinas. I thought that our 25 mph gusts this morning in Valdosta, GA might be associated with Wilma, but now I believe that they are associated with a strong cold front approaching from the northwest.

After having record hot weather last week, we will approach record cold weather this week. 2005 is truly a record breaking weather year.
Just got another call from mom on the cell now. internet is out but they still have power. Winds picking up, torrential rains but still hanging in there.
Looks like the NHC got this one pretty much spot on...again...good job, guys! Glad this season is almost over...
Anybody in the Delray Beach/Ocean Ridge area on A1A? I'm in Jacksonville visiting and am wondering how my house is faring this morning. Hope you are all safe; I'm sure you're not bored!
Very windy and COOL here in Tampa. Temps have been steadily dropping all night! Looking at the radar, we should be getting sun within a couple of hours.
I'm in west palm, local news feed says Delray is getting hit hard, 100 plus winds, but worst is about over.
Thank you WeatherWeasel. We can only hope for the best, I guess.
It's 39 F here in Asheville. Upper elevations are supposed to get snow tonight. Our leaves are still all green. Weird weather this year. Glad to hear from some of our South Florida friends! Hope everyone is ok.
30. bb00
Anyone know the highwest sustained windspeed of Wilma when it hit land? I couldn't find it on wunderground or nhcc.

It was 49 degrees here this morning in Pensacola. Winds out of the North at 20 and gusting to 27! Wow, beach weather one day and winter the next. Hope all are safe to my south.
Good morning everyone. My thoughts and prayers are with all the people in South Florida as they ride this storm out, especially out fellow bloggers.

I have been wondering about something with these 3 CAT 5 storms that we have had this year. It seems pretty odd that the winds have maxed out at 175 mph, but their pressure have been different and much more intense then storms previously measured (Camille had winds at 190 mph, with a lower pressure than Wilma and Katrina). It doesn't make too much sense to me.
gbreezegirl - They are talking about possible frost this far south by Tuesday or Wednesday. Tallahassee set record high temperatures three days in a row last week.

These Weather Channel reports don't give a really good indication of the severity of these hurricanes. There is no way they could stand outside and report in 120 mph winds. I have been outside in 45 mph gusts and I couldn't imagine 120 mph sustained winds. They do a great job, but I think many viewers who have never been through a hurricane may get a false sense that there isn't much to them if they can stand out in them. I believe they sometimes have a barrier wall blocking some of the winds while they give reports.
Hey all....
21, Looks like we're in for a cooler week. Cold in the morning and cool during the day.
Coastie- Great weather!!

Ditto to what you said earlier about the South Floridians..
Cold is an understatement...it's still only 39 degrees here in southwest, VA. That's just ridiculous for this time of year here.

Our temperature graph here looks like a picture of a Swiss Alp, huge dropoff...

Been lurking for the past few days.Great site! I'm in a fire station in west Boca Raton Fl. We just had the Eye pass overhead ,Crystal clear Blue Sky! Now the wind is really howling out of the west. we lost some of our roof tiles earlier and the traffic signal blew down , on generator and dial up standing by till it 's clear then the real work starts.
We have already had a couple of light frosts.. They are forecasting the chance of snow for my hood for tommorrow morning, tommorrow night and Wed morning. Probably won't stick or be much of it but it probably be in the air.
It's still 39 here in Asheville. They keep lowering the forecast high temp. They also issued a freeze warning for tonight. I guess we're just going to skip fall this year!
At least folks without power in So. FLorida won't have to deal with heat.
Orlando is starting to clear a little.
Early this morning there were many funnel clouds reported just south at the Osceola/Orange county line.
All theme parks are closed today (DUH).
Temps are falling rapidly as the system moves off.
Should be beautiful starting this afternoon for the rest of the week. Highs 70s lows 50s
GOODBYE WILMA we bid you a not so fond farewell.
Hey my fellow Panhandlers and N. Floridians. Did this wind and cooler temps come from the wind swath or the jet stream dipping? 51 degrees at my house right now, brrrrr.
It's pretty windy up here in Western NC - must be same system. It is colder than we expected - I sent the kids to school underdressed (everyone did, they'll keep them inside) It may snow tonight. It's very surreal to be watching hurricane coverage in South Florida and feeling the temps we are feeling up here. Still hoping everyone comes out OK, but it sounds like there is a lot of damage.
11 am...starting to clear in Tampa...
Any news from Marco, Everglades City, and that region? I hope you all are doing OK.

Its the hurricane season of 2005, all the rules are out the window, its anarchy baby, get out the tinfoil hat and bible cause its the END OF THE WORLD (LOL).

Seriously its not uncommon to have conditions such as we are talking about where cool air streams down from Canada but its still warm enough to support hurricane development (ie hurricane development is more dependant on water temps not air temps)
code1, our cold weather came from the jet stream dipping down and should last through the week. Should warm up for the weekend though.

Are you one of the band of heroes who did such an incredible job of electronic reporting during Katrina? (For those of you who didn't recognize it, NOLA is the web address of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.)
Got it - I'm making my tinfoil hat right now.
Thanks for the info, Orion. Where are you?
Thx coastie. Won't complain then, at least it kept Wilma from being a long event like we saw in Mexico!
Gosh no, toadfish. I'm a New Orleans transplant in North Carolina (but I keep a window for nola.com open at all times) Several of my friends are reporters with TP - both reported during and after - and you are right, they are heroes. My husband and I owned a business down there for years. We have very deep roots in N.O. and have evacuee family and friends here still. I found this site while searching for family after Katrina. It keeps me from feeling so helpless!

Grew up near Ft. Bragg NC, moved to Toronto for a couple of years now living in a burb of Rochester NY.
Good morning all. Wilma dropped quite a bit of rain on us and a few hours of gusty winds 35-45 mph perhaps. For the moment it is feeling like a big winter blast is on the way. We just had a gust out of the north here that must have been 50 mph out of the north. Currently it is I believe 64 degrees and the temp has been dropping all morning in St. Pete.

Coastie, Wilma has the record for the lowest pressure on record in the Atlantic basin. Off hand I don't know what pressures were for Katrina and Camille.
I know some people up there, Orion. It sounds like a nice place, but I've reached the northern-most latitude that my thin southern blood can tolerate. I'm expecting a harsh winter this year, though.
Running out. Stay safe everyone!

You're right that Wilma has the record for lowest pressure, but the max winds don't match the pressure. With that pressure I would have thought winds to be up over 200 mph sustained.

It takes some getting use to. My first winter in Toronto I saw more snow in one month than my entire life. It the price of cool summers, no snakes, no poisonous spiders, no fire ants.

It takes some getting use to. My first winter in Toronto I saw more snow in one month than my entire life. It the price of cool summers, no snakes, no poisonous spiders, no fire ants. And WHITE christmases
I agree Coastie. I would like to hear from Dr. Masters or someone with NHC on this.
MisterJimster and coastie, wonder if there is a scientific explanation for this or if it is just another part of the Mother Nature phenom this year.
orion - I still think you're nuts :-) Got out of NY winters a few years ago and I'm never going back. Although I've made it as far south as my thick northern blood can handle...can't handle the heat in the deep south, don't like the bugs down there and I'm afraid of hurricanes. But I sure do enjoy visiting my in-laws in Vero Beach in the winter and I'm really hoping their place has made it through OK. They are up in NY now so they are safe, but their stuff might not be.
Bradenton: Clear skies and cool -- about 63F. In one sense it was a waste to board windows. In another, we now have precut boards for future use. No damage other than small branches and leaves blown off of our old-growth Oaks. Power, phones, Internet all working as well as they usually do here, namely better than in the Dominican Republic, not as good as in the U.S.

We had about 4" of rain, which is no more than we get in typical summer thunderstorms. Basically, for us Hurricane Wilma was a non-event. Its main effect was closure of many businesses and government offices (like no trash pickup today). I think I'll take the boards off the windows now.

According to continental.com, my flight out of TPA at 6:50 p.m. will leave as scheduled, so everything is hunky-dory.

This was our first hurricane alert in this house, which we bought last year after living in a mobile home (also in Bradenton) for several years. My wife felt secure and safe, which is good. One weakness left to fix is the single-layer metal roof on my converted-lanai office, which will be taken care of long before next year's hurricane season although it will still be a vulnerability for the rest of this year's season -- which could still produce more storm fun for us. :)

I got the tinfoil hat to prove it (LOL). Seriously I have never been known to be playing with a full deck (ie I am crazy until you see the sanity I bring to a insane world).

As far as living up here its nice, but its getting about time to try somewhere else.
orion - in the summer I desperately miss living in the Adirondacks, it's so beautiful there. But the other 10 months out of the year ('cause they only get two nice months up there) I'm really happy I'm not there. Although, since the temperature is only reading 39 here at the moment (average this time o' year is 63) I'm not feeling like I moved far enough south!
The winds never did seem to catch up with the pressure in Katrina and she was that low for a long time. Wilma spent a fairly short time at her lowest pressures, so maybe in her case there just wasn't enough time for the winds to catch up - the winds generally lag behind the pressure change by a bit. Maybe there is just a limit to how fast the winds can swirl around the eye.

Eyewall replacement cycles certainly limit it to some extent, the wind speeds get higher and higher and the eyewall gets smaller and smaller and eventually the inner one collapses, intensity drops until the outer eyewall reorganizes. The odd thing with Katrina was, there weren't any EWRC for the last few days, even though she wasn't a classic annular. So maybe there is some other limiting factor...
EllistonVA ,

Check yer email
I know that when you have winds that strong the damage is catastrophic and there probably isn't much difference between 175 and 190 mph, but I still think its really quite a coincidence that 3 storms of that magnitude can have the same max winds with different pressure readings. You are probably correct with Wilma (she didn't have that long with the low pressure), but with Katrina, she had quite a long period with the low pressure. Maybe, we will never know.
new blog...
oriondarkwood - "Anyone have any clue how Wilma could have intenseified in a wind sheer that according to the rules (which are being rewritten as we speak)."

If the forces acting on the storm (the shear) aren't strong enough ... it doesn't weaken. Keep in mind that most of those lines on the graphs are estimates, or calculated. Given more data collecting stations, the strangth of the shear and the storm would be more accurate, and lead to more accurate forecasts.

Every storm brings new data, which refines the math used to calculate the interactions. It's a slowly evolving process, and until VERY recently, real-time calculations weren't possible. Behind those lines and graphics is a honkingly large cluster of computers working as fast as they can.
"You're right that Wilma has the record for lowest pressure, but the max winds don't match the pressure. With that pressure I would have thought winds to be up over 200 mph sustained."

Wilma has the record, yes, but by the time she hit the Yucatan, the pressure had increased. The correlation between barometric pressure and wind speed is not linear, not is BP the only factor in wind speed.