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Hurricane Wilma is still the most intense storm in the Atlantic Ocean

Monday, October 18th 2021, 5:04 am - On this day in weather history, Wilma strengthened into a hurricane.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


Hurricane Wilma was a powerful Category 5 storm that impacted areas of the Caribbean, Mexico, the United States, and Canada. It was a part of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. The season included Wilma, Rita, and Katrina, three of the most intense hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.

On Oct. 13, 2005, the storm started to develop from a low-pressure system near Jamaica. On Oct. 15, the system organized and strengthened into Tropical Depression Twenty-Four. On Oct. 17, the National Hurricane Center named the storm Wilma.

1024px-Flood102405 "Storm surge from Wilma on Key Haven, island suburb of Key West, Florida." Courtesy of Averette/Wikipedia/CC BY 3.0

On Oct. 18, Wilma strengthened into a hurricane and experienced an explosive deepening in the Caribbean Sea. Within 30 hours, Wilma's barometric pressure went from 982 mbar to 882 mbar, making it the most intense hurricane in Atlantic history (based on pressure).

At its peak, Wilma's winds reached as high as 295 km/h. On Oct. 21, the hurricane struck the island of Cozumel, Quintana Roo, with 240 km/h winds. The same day, Wilma hit the Mexican mainland.

Hurricane Wilma damage Fort Lauderdale "Heavy facade damage to a building in Fort Lauderdale." Courtesy of Scott von Berg/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 2.0

Wilma weakened over land but re-intensified as it travelled over the Gulf of Mexico. On Oct. 24, the hurricane hit Florida with 195 km/h. On Oct. 26, Wilma weakened into an extratropical storm near Nova Scotia. The next day, the system was absorbed by another storm over Atlantic Canada.

Aside from being the strongest storm in the Atlantic Ocean, Wilma set other records. While over Mexico, the hurricane brought 1,633.98 mm of rainfall, making it the highest 24-hour total rainfall in the western hemisphere.

Wilma was also the first W-named storm in the Atlantic basin since naming began in 1950.

Overall, Florida and the U.S. received the worst impact from Wilma. In the States, the hurricane killed 30 people and caused $21 billion in damages. In total, Wilma killed 52 people and cost $22.4 billion.

To learn more about Hurricane Wilma, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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