Wednesday, October 19, 2005

While we weren't looking

Wilma has turned into a category five hurricane literally overnight... and what's more it is now the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. Current tracking information has it hitting the Florida panhandle by Saturday. Says Bryan Woods from StormTrack:

I thought I had seen everything this hurricane season, but I was wrong. WOW! ... Between 5:00pm EDT and 5:00am EDT Wilma's pressure dropped from 970 mb to 884 mb and her winds increased from 80 mph to 175 mph. This rate of strengthening in incredible. A strengthening of 86 mb in 12 hours is absolutely amazing. Even a 1 mb/hr strengthening is quick. We saw a strengthening of 7.2 mb/hr. Wilma has a very small eye that is fluctuating between 2 nm and 4 nm across. Since then the winds have stayed the same and the pressure has dropped at a little bit more to 882 mb.

Wilma is currently the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. Yes, ever. To give you some points of reference: Katrina reached 902 mb, Rita bottomed out at 897 mb, and both Mitch and Camille measured 905 mb. Even this estimate of Wilma could be conservative.

I don't see how Wilma could get much stronger (it already is the strongest hurricane ever recorded). This is the first time on record that three Category 5 hurricanes formed in the same year. Previously both 1960 and 1961 had two Category 5 hurricanes. In a single year we have now seen the 1st, 4th, and 6th strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic.

Those of you in Southern Florida should begin planning now. Please be prepared for a hurricane landfall as early as Saturday. Wilma is very serious storm. Wilma clearly has her sights set on passing through the Yucatan Channel and heading directly at Southern Florida. This is no longer a joking matter. We have yet another catastrophic hurricane at hand.

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