Early in the morning on October 19, 2005, a reconnaissance aircraft extrapolated a minimum sea level pressure (MSLP) of 882 mb in Wilma's center. This value is the lowest pressure on record in any Atlantic tropical cyclone, and is also be the lowest sea level pressure ever measured in the Western Hemisphere. This pressure measurement followed an astounding 88 mb drop in just 15 hours. This probably has set a new world record for most rapid intensification of a tropical cyclone.
Here is how Wilma stacks up against other historic storms in the Atlantic Basin:
Wilma 2005 882 mb
Gilbert 1988 888 mb (later made landfall with an estimated MSLP of 900 mb on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula)
Labor Day 1935 892 mb (measured during landfall in middle Florida Keys -- deepest landfall intensity on record in the Atlantic basin)
Rita 2005 895 mb
Allen 1980 899 mb
Katrina 2005 902 mb
Camille 1969 905 mb
Mitch 1998 905 mb
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season will also go down in the history books as having the most number of Category 5 hurricanes observed in a single season for this basin. It is possible that Emily may also be upgraded to Category 5 intensity in the post-season analysis. If Emily is upgraded, the total would be four Category 5 hurricanes, otherwise it will be three. Only two previous years have even had two Category 5 hurricanes in the same season: 1960 and 1961.
Wilma intensified faster than any other Atlantic hurricane on record. In just 24 hours, it went from a 60 kt tropical storm to a 150 kt Cat. 5 hurricane! The extreme pressure fall was also the most rapid ever measured in a tropical cyclone for certain time frames.
During the period of rapid intensification, reconnaissance aircraft reported that Wilma's extremely tiny eye was fluctuating between 2 and 4 miles in diameter! This is the smallest eye ever observed in the world, as far as anyone can remember!
Wilma also set another record, becoming the fourth major hurricane to hit the United States in one season, following major hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, and Rita.
Wilma almost became the latest major hurricane strike as well, but records show that she missed this distinction by one day: the Tarpon Springs hurricane of 1921 (Tampa) hit on the afternoon of October 25, while Wilma struck in the early hours of October 24.
Wilma also became one of the most damaging hurricanes to hit the United States, causing ?? of damage in South Florida. The storm also caused the largest power outage in South Florida history, with 98% of customers out after the storm. It took nearly a month to fully restore power.
Preliminary local storm reports for Florida archived from NWS/IWIN
NASA Photo Gallery of ISS Wilma Images spectacular images of Wilma's record small eye (2 n mi!), taken from the International Space Station
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