As if being precisely orchestrated by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Wilma thundered ashore in Naples, Fla. at 6:30 a.m. EDT, as a Category 3 hurricane, bringing with it pounding waves, torrential rain and sustained winds of up to 125 mph. NHC’s 11 a.m. bulletin said the hurricane’s eye was passing over West Palm Beach and that the storm was heading out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Wilma came ashore 18 miles south of Naples. Winds gusted to over 100 mph several locations in South Florida. A storm spotter on Cudjoe Key reported a gust to 123 mph, and gusts as high as 111 mph battered greater Miami.
In its 11 a.m. EDT advisory the NHC said Wilma’s eye had moved over Palm Beach and Martin Counties, with hurricane force winds on the back side of the eye moving into southeastern Florida’s highly-populated metropolitan areas.
Wilma was moving northeast at near 25 mph with a continued increase in forward speed expected during the next 24 hours.
On this track the large eye will emerge off the east coast of the southern florida peninsula and move into the Atlantic later today. However NHC cautioned that Wilma is a large hurricane and the strongest winds in the eye-wall extend well away from the center. Residents of the area were urged not to venture outdoors during the relative calm of the eye because winds will soon increase quite rapidly.
Maximum sustained winds are near 105 mph with higher gusts. Wilma is now a category two hurricane. Wind speeds about one category stronger could be experienced in high-rise buildings. Some continued gradual weakening is likely as Wilma emerges off the southern Florida Peninsula.
Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 100 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 260 miles.
The NHC predicts storm surge should be decreasing along the southwestern Florida coast, the lower Florida Keys and extreme
southeast Florida. Storm surge flooding should begin to decrease in
upper Florida Bay later Monday afternoon and evening. As Wilma exits Florida storm surge flooding of 2 to 4 feet is still possible. Along the Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie shorelines to the north of the storm track. Storm surge of 5 to 8 feet is still possible in Lake Okeechobee.
Wilma is expected to produce additional 2- to 4-inch rainfall amounts
over portions of central and southern Florida with maximum storm total amounts of 12 inches possible. Western Cuba may receive additional 1 to 3 inch rainfall amounts over localized areas. Rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches are possible over portions of the northwestern Bahamas.
A hurricane warning remains in effect for all of the Florida Keys including the Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay along the Florida west coast from Longboat Key southward and along the Florida east coast from Titusville southward including Lake Okeechobee.
A tropical storm warning remains in effect along the Florida west coast north of Longboat Key to Steinhatchee River and along the Florida east coast north of Titusville to St. Augustine.
A tropical storm watch along the northeast coast of Florida from north of St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach has been discontinued.
A hurricane warning remains in effect for the Cuban provinces of Ciudad de la Habana, la Habana and Pinar del Rio. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Isle of Youth.
A hurricane watch remains in effect for the province of Matanzas. These warnings and watches will likely be discontinued later Monday.
A hurricane warning remains in effect for the northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Andros Island, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence.
At 7 a.m. the NHC reported that Wilma’s center was inland about 10 miles north of Everglades City, Fla. and headed northeast toward the east coast. Wilma increased in forward speed across the Florida Peninsula.
Flooding near the coast is expected to destroy smaller structures with larger structures damaged by battering from floating debris.