As of the 2PM EDT Advisory, Hurricane Wilma has weakened slightly to winds of 165 mph and a central pressure of 900 mb. Wilma is still a devestating Category 5 hurricane and remains stronger than Hurricane Katrina ever was.
Some tracks have shifted more towards New England and they maintain hurricane strength after moving across the Florida peninsula. At this point it appears that an eyewall cycle is underway. Once Wilma hits the relatively cooler waters of the Gulf, she should weaken a bit before hitting Florida as a major hurricane (category 3 or above).
AP reports that the Florida Keys have been ordered evacuated.
Between 5:00pm EDT and 5:00am EDT Wilma's pressure dropped from 970 mb to 884 mb and her wind speeds increased from 80 mph to 175 mph. This rate of strengthening is 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. The pressure continued to drop after that and bottomed out at 882 mb.
With such a small eye, an eyewall replacement seems to be commencing and we will keep you up to date on this as it happens. The latest slight weakening of the hurricane is in line with this conclusion. The latest satellite shots clearly show an outer eyewall consolidating and we could see the inner eyewall collapse in the near future. After the new eye reforms, Wilma could restrengthen.
Wilma, with a central pressure of 882, has broken the record as 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, both Mitch and Camille measured 905 mb, and Andrew was 922 mb. The previous record holder was Gilbert with 888 mb.
This is the first time on record that three Category 5 hurricanes have 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. Evacuations are already under way in the Keys. 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.
Some of you may have noticed us tinkering around overnight. This morning we released our new StormTrack model charts. This is the first public release of our model charts that are now integrated with Google Maps. From now on, simply click on the map and you will be brought to the full control panel in a new window. You can move the map around, select your desired models, and zoom right in on your area of interest. Watch for more improvements in the coming days.