The storm is still in the southwest Carribean but slowing down. Wilma is expected to stall over the Yucatan before turning to the Northeast. That's at least what the computer models are saying now. With this slowing down, Wilma wouldn't reach Florida before Monday. Earlier forecasts had it here on Saturday.
We're still watching it. Below is an article from today's Sun-Sentinel website. I'll update this post as news develops.
Much of Florida went on high alert as Wilma exploded into the most intense hurricane on record, but the storm began to slow. It may not reach southeast Florida until Monday morning with its winds as high as 120 mph and driving rains.Officials in the Keys ordered mandatory evacuations starting today. In South Florida, coastal residents and those in mobile homes might be ordered to evacuate by Friday.
A small ray of hope emerged: If Wilma rams into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, its anticipated right turn toward this region could be significantly altered and the system's strength weakened, the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade County said.
"If it goes just 20 or 30 miles inland, the core could be destroyed," said hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart. "A lot will depend on the exact track."At 5 a.m., Wilma, which has already left at least 13 dead, was about 195 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, slowly churning west-northwest at 8 mph with sustained winds near 150 mph.
The expected turn to the northwest had not yet happened, keeping the storm on a track toward the Yucatan. The eyewall of Wilma was going through a weakening phase, with a replacement forming within 24 hours and the hurricane going through another strengthening.
"Thereafter ... a portion of the circulation will be interacting with the Yucatan Peninsula, and there will be increasing wind shear. Wilma should then begin a steady weakening trend," the hurricane center said in a statement.
Under the current forecast track, the system would strike near Naples. Hurricane center meteorologist Jennifer Pralgo said it was no longer expected to be a major hurricane after making its slow pass over the Yucatan. ``We expect it to be a Category 2 at landfall'' in Florida, Pralgo said. Category 2 hurricanes have 96-110 mph winds.
It would then roll through the north end of Palm Beach County as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane.The severe weather is expected to be widespread because Wilma is expected to grow in size, with its strongest winds likely to extend more than 100 miles from its center, Stewart said. Hurricane winds now extend 70 miles from the center.
"This is going to be a large hurricane with all the nasty conditions, including strong winds and storm surge," Stewart said. "No matter how you slice it, it's going to be bad this weekend."After the system clears out, cooler, drier conditions will prevail in South Florida.
"It could be the nicest weather of the season," said Eric Blake, meteorologist with the hurricane center.At 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Wilma's internal pressure dropped to a record 882 millibars, and it had sustained winds of 175 mph. The previous record low-pressure reading was 888 millibars, set in Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.
The system weakened because hurricanes cannot retain Category 5 intensity for long periods of time.Depending on its speed, hurricane watches could be posted for much of Florida's east coast by today and hurricane warnings by Friday.