Accuweather News

by News Director Steve Penstone
Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2005 at 10:50 AM EDT

Hurricane Wilma rapidly gained strength overnight and is now a category 5 storm! A recon plane found a pressure of 892 mb around 2:30 this morning, then 884 mb around 5 a.m., ranking Wilma as the most intense hurricane to ever be recorded in the Atlantic basin! It is also the fastest intensification of any hurricane in recorded history. Wilma is packing winds over 175 mph, with higher gusts. Senior Hurricane Expert Joe Bastardi says it is a very compact storm, with an eye just 4 miles wide and hurricane force winds extending outward only 15 miles from center.

Wilma is being blamed for one death in Jamaica after it struck the island as a tropical depression on Sunday. The storm's outer bands are already bringing rain, wind and strong surf to the Atlantic coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua. The two nations and Guatemala are still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Stan. Nearly 800 people died, and many remain missing. Honduran President Ricardo Maduro has declared a "maximum alert", while Nicaragua has mobilized army, police and rescue workers.

he Accuweather Eye Path currently shows Wilma will make landfall this weekend along southwest Florida's Gulf Coast, close to where Hurricane Charley hit last year.

Even though Wilma is expected to lose strength before making landfall all Florida residents should be prepared for this potentially devastating storm. Earlier today tourists were ordered to leave the Florida Keys. forecasters say that after crossing the Florida peninsula Wilma will slingshot north along the Atlantic coast, bringing rain to the Mid-Atlantic and New England states by Monday.

WILMA'S THREAT TO FLORIDA'S TREASURE COAST forecasters are calling Hurricane Wilma a dangerous Category 5 storm, with winds packing 175 mph.

Wilma is expected to lose strength, falling to a Category 3 storm before making landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast on the weekend. It is expected to pack the same power Katrina had when it slammed into the U.S. in August, killing more than 1,200 people.

Wilma's path will likely threaten Treasure Coast areas that were devastated by Hurricane Charley. The Category 4 storm was the first of the six hurricanes that have struck Florida since August 2004.

Supermarkets and building supply stores in the Sunshine State are stocked with extra food, water, ice and other supplies in anticipation of a rush by residents. Florida's Department of Emergency Management reminds Floridians living in the Keys and the peninsula to make sure that their family disaster preparedness plans are completed during the next few days.


The 2005 Atlantic Basin hurricane season doesn't end until November 30, but the list of names has already been exhausted. Hurricane Wilma is the 21st named storm of the season and the 12th hurricane of the year, tying records in both categories. There are only 21 names on the annual list of storms, because Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used.

There has never been more than 21 named storms in one season. If a record breaking storm develops before the official end of the season, it will be given the name Alpha, the first letter in the Greek alphabet.