As of the 11AM EDT Advisory, Wilma is holding at 882mb and 175mph.
Some tracks have shifted more towards New England and they maintain hurricane strength after moving across the Florida peninsula. At this point all we can do is wait and watch for eyewall cycles and wait for her to hit the relatively cooler waters of the Gulf, where Wilma 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.
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 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. 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 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. Please be prepared for a hurricane landfall as early as Saturday. Wilma is a 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 are releasing our new StormTrack model charts. Below 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.
With such a small eye, an eyewall replacement cycle seems inevitable. We will keep you up to date on this as it happens. The latest satellite shots clearly show an outer eyewall consolidating and we could see the inner eyewall collapse in the near future.