Hurricane Wilma was still gathering strength when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite took this image at 11:55 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, on October 18, 2005. At that time, Wilma was rapidly building in power and size. While lacking the classic, tightly wound spiral of a well-developed hurricane, Wilma was becoming a force to be reckoned with. Less than 24 hours later, Hurricane Wilma exploded in strength to the very top of the wind strength scale as a Category 5 hurricane. When this image was taken, Wilma’s sustained winds were 120 kilometers per hour (75 miles per hour). Just 18 hours later, they were 280 km/hr (175 mph)! At that point, Wilma became the most powerful storm in terms of both wind speeds and air pressure ever measured in an Atlantic hurricane.
Wilma also set records by becoming the 21st named storm of the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season. This made 2005 the most active hurricane season on record, tied with 1933. Wilma’s projected course on October 19 had the storm entering the Gulf of Mexico between western Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula, then heading eastward across southern Florida.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.
Hurricane Wilma formed in the Carribean as a tropical depression on October 15, 2005, becoming the 21st named storm of the 2005 hurricane season, the most active on record save for 1933, which also had 21 named storms.