Overnight, hurricane Wilma became a Category 5 storm with sustained 175-mile-per-hour winds and the lowest recorded barometric pressure of any Atlantic hurricane. Meteorologists expect it to weaken over the next few days, although it could dump huge amounts of rain on Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Cuba.

10-19-2005 Hurricane Wilma: Hurricane Wilma, 10-19-2005

The current forecast has Wilma dropping to a Category 3 storm before it makes landfall somewhere in southwestern Florida over the weekend. (Florida has been hit by six—count 'em! Six!—hurricanes since August 2004, and many people are still in the process of rebuilding from the last storm.) Wilma is the third Category 5 hurricane this year (after Katrina and Rita). The National Hurricane Center doesn't know if that's a record because they don't track the number of Category 5 storms in a season. Wilma does tie two other records, though—the most hurricanes in a season: 12; and the most named storms in a season: 21. And Wilma is the last name on the National Hurricane Center's list of names for 2005 storms. The hurricane season doesn't end until November 30; if any other tropical storms or hurricanes develop this year, they'll be named using letters from the Greek alphabet, starting with Alpha. (If that happens, it would be the first time since we started naming storms in 1953.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

Only three Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. since we started keeping records: the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille (1969), and Hurricane Andrew, which devastated coastal Florida in August of 1992. Hurricane Andrew, the costliest hurricane to date, caused $26.5 billion in damages. Experts estimate that reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 billion.

posted on Wed, 10/19/2005 - 9:57am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

The most active hurricane season on record occurred in 1933, when 21 storms reached tropical storm status or greater. 2005 may be a record-breaking year: there have already been 17 storms (5 "major" hurricanes) and the hurricane season doesn't end until November 30th. (Many factors influence the number of hurricanes that form every year, from unusually high sea surface temperatures, to El Nino and El Nina episodes, to long-term oceanic and atmospheric cycles, to pure chance.)

posted on Wed, 10/19/2005 - 9:58am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Globally, about 80 tropical cyclones form each year, one-third of which become hurricanes. Most of these are in the western Pacific Ocean, which contains a wide expanse of warm ocean water. The Atlantic Ocean, which has a smaller expanse of warm water, averages about 10 storms each year, about six of which become hurricanes.

posted on Wed, 10/19/2005 - 9:59am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Wow this must be a tough time for people in New Orleans!!!!\r\nI feel soooo bad 4 them!! my school is helping them

posted on Thu, 11/03/2005 - 11:59am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I feel real bad for the people in Florida. I hope that they don't do the same thing as the people did in New Orleans during Katrina. I thought that was sad and dumb! Because they didn't leave before the hurricane.

posted on Thu, 10/20/2005 - 5:44pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Wondering why forecasters are having so much trouble predicting Wilma's path and intensity at landfall? I was, too. Turns out that while scientists' ability to detect and track severe storms has been dramatically enhanced in recent years by the use of weather satellites orbiting the Earth, the models the put the data from these tools into aren't perfect.

Data from satellites, aircraft flights, ships, buoys, water temperatures, winds at different levels, and other sources is entered into hurricane models that help forecasters make predictions. A small change in the data put into a model can make a huge difference in the prediction.

When the models agree, it's easy for meteorologists to figure out the path and speed of a hurricane and to advise people what to do. But when the models disagree, it's tougher. In that case, forecasters often use a consensus to determine the path and speed of the storm.

And hurricanes can be unpredictable, despite the best data and models. Last year's Hurricane Charley, for example, grew quickly from a Category 2 to a Category 4 storm and changed course, coming ashore 70 miles south of the anticipated bulls-eye.

posted on Fri, 10/21/2005 - 1:55pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Hurricane Wilma officially made landfall today around 4 pm, Minnesota time, on the island of Cozumel. It remains a Category 4 storm.

Forecasters think that Wilma will hang out over the Yucatan peninsula for the next 24 hours, before swinging back out into the Gulf of Mexico and heading for Florida. That's bad news for Mexico, but it means a slower and weaker storm (probably) for Floridians.

posted on Fri, 10/21/2005 - 4:18pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

While folks in Southwestern Florida prepare for Hurricane Wilma, people on Mexico's Yucantan Peninsula are just starting to clean up. Wilma, which came ashore near the tourist beaches of Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Cozumel, lingered over the Yucatan Peninsula for longer than forecasters predicted, pounding the heavily developed with heavy rains and ferocious winds. The storm should reach Florida by daybreak tomorrow and is expected to be a Category 2 hurricane at that time.

And guess what? Tropical Storm Alpha is brewing in the Caribbean, menacing Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Alpha breaks the Atlantic hurricane activity record set in 1933 and marks the first time that storm trackers have run out of names and resorted to the Greek alphabet to designate tropical storms and hurricanes. (And hurricane season isn't over yet; it doesn't end until November 30th.)

Alpha is not expected to impact the United States.

posted on Sun, 10/23/2005 - 5:40pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Hurricane Wilma and other great storms are forcing climate scientists to think that they might need to change the Saffir-Simpson scale that is used to categorize these storms.

posted on Sun, 10/23/2005 - 7:01pm

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