Florida Readies for Powerful Hurricane Wilma

A NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Wilma i i

A NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Wilma taken Wednesday morning shows the storm churning over the northwestern Caribbean Sea. Deaths have already been reported in Haiti and Jamaica. NOAA hide caption

itoggle caption NOAA
A NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Wilma

A NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Wilma taken Wednesday morning shows the storm churning over the northwestern Caribbean Sea. Deaths have already been reported in Haiti and Jamaica.

NOAA

Florida is ordering evacuations for the Keys as Hurricane Wilma, identified as the most intense Atlantic storm ever recorded, makes its way toward the Gulf of Mexico.

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At 8 p.m. ET, Hurricane Wilma was about 270 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and about 452 miles south-southwest of Key West. The Category 5 storm is moving across the Caribbean Sea with top winds of about 160 miles per hour. Its rains have caused the greatest damage so far, killing at least 11 people in Haiti in mudslides after dropping 10 to 15 inches of rain. In Jamaica, the storm's outer bands are blamed for one death, flooding and mudslides.

The storm could pass between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula on Friday, and current projections have it reaching Florida over the weekend. Visitors to the Florida Keys have been ordered to leave by Thursday. The island chain's 80,000 residents have been asked to evacuate on Friday.

Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center in Miami say the storm may weaken by the time it reaches Florida, but it's too early to be certain.

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