|Hurricane Wilma At Record Intensity
On October 15, a broad area of low pressure moved south of Jamaica and slowly organized to become Tropical Depression 24 later
that day. It was given the name Tropical Storm Wilma on October 17, the first storm ever to take the 'W' name, and tying the
record of 21 storms in a season with the 1933 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The storm strengthened steadily in favorable conditions
and became a hurricane on October 18, the 12th hurricane of the season, which tied the record of the 1969 season. On the afternoon
of October 18, something completely unexpected began to occur. Wilma began to intensify at an alarming rate. Within 24 hours,
Wilma's pressure had dropped a record 90mbar. Taking Wilma from a minimal hurricane to a colossal Category 5, with a pressure
of 882mbar. That pressure was the lowest ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin, ahead of Hurricane Gilbert, the previous record
holder with 888mbar. The rapid strengthening is a record for the atlantic basin, and also one of the fastest on earth.
During this rapid intensification, Wilma's eye became impossibly small, in fact one of the smallest ever observed - about
1.5 miles across. Wilma began to weaken slightly on October 19 as it moved WNW through the Caribbean towards the Yucatan Peninsula.
It made landfall on the island of Cozumel as a strong category 4 hurricane on October 21 and began to slow down. The second
landfall on the mainland Yucatan occured at around midnight on October 22. The slow northward drift of the storm caused some
areas to recieve hurricane force winds for 24 hours, while other areas were in the calm eye of the storm for hours at a time.
On October 23, the storm began to accelerate NE and re-enetered water in the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 2.
Wilma then continued NE at around 20mph as it made its landfall on the Florida Peninsula on October 24. By this time the
storm had undergone an eyewall replacement cycle and was a Category 3 with a 30 mile eye. It crossed Florida in under six
hours and entered the atlantic moving full speed ahead as a Category 2. It then began to speed up even more as it accelerated
into the cool waters of the open Atlantic, reaching a speed of 54 mph at one time. It also unexpectedly regained Category
3 status over the Gulf Stream waters. It became extratropical on October 25 near Nova Scotia, bringing heavy rains and high
winds to the area. Sixty deaths have been attributed to Hurricane Wilma, 35 of those in the United States.
Damages estimates range from 18 Billion to as high as 30 Billion dollars, making Wilma one of the costliest hurricanes
on record. Upwards of 22 inches of rain fell in parts of the Yucatan, destroying many resort destinations and posponing vacations
for many. This was not long after Hurricane Emily devastated the area in July of 2005.