Jump to content

Category 3 HURRICANE WILMA bearing down on Key West, Florida


Recommended Posts

Wilma rockets toward southwest Florida

Hurricane regains Category 3 status ahead of morning landfall


Sunday, October 23, 2005; Posted: 11:24 p.m. EDT (03:24 GMT)




KEY WEST, Florida (CNN) -- Hurricane Wilma strengthened as it picked up forward speed across the Gulf of Mexico with landfall expected along Florida's southwest coast early Monday, forecasters said.


Wilma regained Category 3 status late Sunday when its wind speed increased from 110 mph to 115 mph, said the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.


At Category 3, the storm is considered a "major hurricane" by the center.


A storm surge of 9 to 17 feet (2.7 to 5.2 meters) is possible near and to the south of where Wilma's center makes landfall.


Some streets in Key West were already flooded with ankle-deep water late Sunday, and sustained tropical-storm force winds of at least 39 mph (62 kph) were lashing the lower and middle Florida Keys.


Wilma is on track to be the seventh hurricane to hit the state in 14 months, and officials said they were concerned that thousands of people had ignored a mandatory evacuation order in the Florida Keys. (Watch how Key West residents take Wilma in stride -- 1:51)


As of 11 p.m. ET, Wilma was headed northeast at 18 mph (30 kph) with top winds of 115 mph (185 kph).


The storm's center at about 120 miles (195 kilometers) west of Key West, Florida, and 170 miles (275 kilometers) southwest of Naples, Florida.


The center's 11 p.m. advisory said the risk of tornadoes had "increased significantly." Tornado warnings were posted for parts of Florida Sunday evening, and a water spout was spotted near Key West.


Hurricane-force winds are expected to hit the entire lower third of the Florida Peninsula Monday, said Max Mayfield, the hurricane center's director.


After pounding Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula for two days, Wilma accelerated across the Gulf of Mexico.


"We think it'll be moving about 20 to 25 mph by the time it hits Florida," said the hurricane center's Ed Rappaport.


Mayfield said the storm's forward speed will "pick up like a rocket" as it nears Florida, which he called good news, since it would mean a shorter period of high winds and rain.


The bad news, Mayfield said, is that Wilma picked up strength Sunday. The center said it was likely to weaken to a Category 2 storm by the time it moves into the Atlantic on Florida's east coast Monday afternoon.


The forecaster said the center is concerned about the low-lying Florida Keys "because of their particular vulnerability."

Ignoring pleas


"Very few" residents of the Florida Keys heeded the evacuation order, said Billy Wagner, manager of the Monroe County Emergency Operations Center.


He warned the evacuation route would close Sunday evening and estimated as many as 80 percent of the residents remained at home.


Those people had ignored the pleas of officials including Gov. Jeb Bush, who earlier Sunday emphasized that remaining behind was a bad idea.


"A hurricane is a hurricane," Bush said. "It has deadly force winds."


No shelters were opened in the Keys due to a lack of structures that can withstand hurricane-force winds and rain.


A storm surge of 5 to 8 feet is predicted for the Keys, Wagner said.


"I'm very concerned about those subjected to storm surge," Wagner said.


The Keys, just a quarter-mile wide in many places, are mostly between 4 to 6 feet above sea level.


Mayfield expressed particular concern that many mobile home residents in the Keys had chosen to remain, saying "that's not the place to be."

Too late to evacuate


Fort Myers Mayor Jim Humphrey said Sunday it was too late for remaining residents to evacuate and called on them to move to shelters.


"We actually have a pet-friendly shelter because so many of our residents, we're afraid, would not evacuate if they had to leave their pets behind," he said.


Elsewhere in Lee County, police teams went door to door on nearby Sanibel and Captiva islands to get people out. (Watch evacuations in Sanibel Island -- 1:43)


Commissioners of Collier County -- which includes Naples, Marco Island and Everglades City -- imposed a curfew on all areas under mandatory evacuation orders. (Watch preparations in Marco Island -- 2:11)


Speedy Johnson opted to remain in Everglades City to tend to his airboat company.


"I'm going to try to take care of it. This is my livelihood that I'm looking at right here," he said. (Watch Speedy Johnson's preparations in Everglades City -- 1:36)


The Red Cross said Sunday it was opening 100 staff shelters in Florida and Georgia with a capacity of about 160,000.

Worse than Charley?


Rappaport warned that while Wilma will come ashore on the state's west coast, the east coast will be under the gun as the hurricane begins to exit into the Atlantic late Monday morning.


A hurricane warning was in effect for the southern half of the Florida Peninsula -- from Titusville on the east coast southward through the Florida Keys and northward along the west coast to Longboat Key near Sarasota. (Watch how some are experiencing hurricane fatigue -- 2:05)


Rappaport cautioned that the storm's right side, always the stronger side of a hurricane, will damage a larger area than Hurricane Charley, which hit southwest Florida in August 2004.


"This is going to be a much more significant event, more widespread for Florida even than Charley was," he said, also warning of a storm surge stronger than the earlier hurricane.


The hurricane center said the storm was expected to dump up to 8 inches of rain over southern Florida, through Tuesday, with isolated amounts of up to 12 inches possible.


In southeast Florida, the outer bands of Wilma flooded the streets of Oakland Park in Broward County near Fort Lauderdale.

Deaths in Mexico


Heavy rain fell Sunday evening over western Cuba, including the capital city of Havana, as the center of Wilma passed to the north.


As many as 500,000 residents were evacuated from dilapidated housing and low-lying areas.


A hurricane warning also remained in effect for the northwestern Bahamas.


Four deaths have been blamed on the storm in Mexico, the state civil protection director general said. (Full story)


Meanwhile, Alpha was downgraded Sunday from a tropical storm to a tropical depression after making landfall in the Dominican Republic. (Full story)


Alpha marked the first time the list of storm names has been exhausted, necessitating the use of the Greek alphabet.


CNN's Mike Ahlers, Allan Chernoff, Sophia Choi and Lucia Newman contributed to this report.



Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...