Wilma, the 21st named storm of the current season, strenthened to hurricane force today with sustained winds in excess of 75 mph (120 km/hr). The storm is still slowly rotating off the coast of Honduras, and hurricane warnings have been issued for that country, all the way to the Nicaraguan border. A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch also remain in effect for the Cayman Islands.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami’s latest bulletin warns: “Wilma is forecast to become a major hurricane in the Northwestern Caribbean Sea. All interests in Western Cuba, the Yucatan Peninsula, the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninisula should closely monitor the progress of Wilma.”
The NHC said earlier that Wilma is around 260 miles (420 kms) south-southeast of Grand Cayman and about 215 miles (345 kms) east-northeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaragua/Honduras border. The storm has “barely moved for the past several hours but a general motion to the west is expected today followed by a gradual turn toward the west-northwest,” said the NHC.
The NHC also noted that “steering currents remain weak and erratic motion is possible during the next 24 hours.” Under those circumstances it is virtually impossible to chart Wilma’s future course with any certainty. It could move west towards Central American and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, or north towards Cuba and eventually the U.S. Gulf Coast, or possibly shift to the northeast towards Florida.
Wilma’s appearance has raised new fears of further damage to gulf oil rigs and a shutdown of repair efforts, if the storm heads that way. At this point, however, no firm predictions concerning the storm’s movements or its eventual strength can be made.
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