News reports tonight state that approximately 10,000 tourist are trapped in Cancun and Playa del Carmen in Mexico. I can only imagine the experience these individuals are in for during and after Wilma. Although we have had three Category 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic basin this season, we have yet to have one remain at that strength during landfall. Wilma may end up being the catastrophic disaster we have feared. New forecast tracks have the hurricane lingering over the Yucatan Peninsula for up the 36 hours. 150mph sustained winds will encompass approximately a 50 mile swath of coastline, a 15-18 foot storm surge with 30-40 foot waves on top will move inland, and up to 40 inches of rain are predicted for mountainous areas of Cuba.
Americans who are expecting huge structures as shelters will be surprised to find the type of buildings they have been moved to in Mexico. Most shelters in this area are small 1 story buildings used as schools. They are used as shelters because they get the tourist off the coastline and surge zones, but they are hardly meant to withstand 150mph sustained winds. I really fear the worst for this situation playing out tonight. Conditions will start to quickly go downhill overnight with the worst conditions taking place around 11am tomorrow. The pandaemonium after the hurricane passes may be scarier than the storm itself. There is no FEMA in Mexico and the American Military isn't going to be coming to rescue anyone. It will truly be a battle for survival after this storm. Amazing stories will be told after Wilma passes.
Below are some pictures I got off of Google Maps showing how vulnerable this area is to an approaching hurricane. Most of the coastline is less than 10 feet above sea level. Just think how far Katrina pushed water into Mississippi as a Category 3. The power of water is just amazing. I know a lot of the American news stations are focusing on Florida for this hurricane, but I honestly believe the story with Wilma is going to play out in the next 24 hours in Mexico. Wilma will be a much weaker storm in the Gulf of Mexico if it spends an extended period of time over land.
More concerning to us here locally is the ever shifting model runs. The 18z GFS model run now has Wilma coming up across Central Florida and impacting North Carolina and Southeastern Virginia late next week as a strong hurricane. The storm would then proceed into the Northeast. We may be dealing with Wilma for over two weeks!