18 October 2005

Wilma becomes a hurricane...

At 15Z today, Wilma was upgraded to the 12th hurricane of the season 
based on aircraft data.  At 21Z, Wilma was located at 16.7N 81.5W (180 
miles south of the Cayman Islands) and tracking WNW at 7kts.  Intensity 
measured by aircraft is 70kts and 970mb, and further strengthening is 
expected, perhaps becoming the 6th major hurricane of the season 
Wednesday evening-ish.  The central pressure has fallen 19mb in the past 
24 hours, and 10mb in the past 6 hours.  All factors point to rapid 
intensification (cold cloudtop persistence, low vertical shear, SSTs in 
the 28.5-29C range, high low-level humidity, large oceanic heat 
content).  Recall that this is the same time of year and same part of 
the Caribbean where Mitch formed and became very intense back in 1998.

The forecast is for continuing to the northwest then a more abrupt turn 
to the northeast in response to a mid-latitude trough moving in, 
threading between Cuba and the Yucatan.  This should steer the storm 
into the western FL peninsula sometime over the weekend, likely as a 
major hurricane (perhaps the Naples area).  The fetch will be large too, 
allowing huge waves (40-60 feet) to travel toward the FL coast on the 
right side of the storm motion.

Hurricane Watches are now in effect for western Cuba, eastern Yucatan 
Peninsula, and Tropical Storm Warnings are in place for the eastern 
portion of the Hinduras coast, and for the Cayman Islands.  You can 
track the storm via radar as it nears Cancun at 

The NTC as of 21Z today is 202%, in 7th place for all seasons since 1900.
Please visit my tropical Atlantic headquarters.

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