By Tom Vanden Brook and Patrick O'Driscoll, USA TODAY
NAPLES, Fla. - Hurricane Wilma, which raced into the Atlantic on
Monday after ravaging southern Florida, could join forces Tuesday with
an unusually early nor'easter off the New England coast, worsening
that storm's effects on a region already saturated by heavy rain this
Wilma walloped Florida from Key West to Daytona Beach with damaging
wind, severe flooding, power outages and tornadoes. But forecasters
say its wrath may not be over. cleanup)
"We know the nor'easter is going to be bad," said meteorologist Tom
Moore of The Weather Channel. "But the boost, if Wilma gets involved,
will be added rainfall, maybe by a third." Even without Wilma, the
storm is forecast to batter the Northeast with up to 4 inches of rain
and wind gusts of 60 mph or more. Six inches to a foot of snow could
fall in mountain areas.
At 11 a.m. ET Tuesday, Wilma's center was located about 570 miles
east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. The system was still a Category
2 storm with 105 mph sustained wind, and was moving northeast
incredibly fast for a tropical system -- 53 mph. It was expected to
lose its tropical characteristics over the cooler Atlantic.
Floridians in search of water, cleaning supplies and generators lined
up Tuesday morning outside the few stores that were open after
Hurricane Wilma cut a costly, deadly swath across the peninsula.
Officials of Florida's three most populous areas -- Miami-Dade,
Broward and Palm Beach counties -- prepared to distribute ice, water
and other essentials to storm-struck residents Tuesday, while
utilities warned that restoration of electric and phone services could
stretch into weeks.
"It will be days or weeks before we are back to normal," Miami-Dade
Mayor Carlos Alvarez said.
Across Florida, Wilma tore off roofs, toppled trees and hurled traffic
signals into intersections. The hurricane shattered windows in
high-rises in Fort Lauderdale and Miami and swamped one-third of Key
West in seawater.
"It went through like a buzz saw," said Jim Tobin, 48, of Naples.
More than 6 million Floridians lost electricity and phones. Florida
Power & Light said repairs could take weeks.
Hurricane Wilma sets records for tropical cyclone activity in the
Wilma is the 21st named storm of the season. The formation of
Tropical Storm Alpha, the 22nd named storm, broke the previous record
of 21 tropical storms or hurricanes in a season. The previous record
was set in 1933.
Wilma became the 12th hurricane of the season, tying the previous mark
set in 1969.
Wilma came ashore as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125
mph. This is the fourth major hurricane (Cat 3 or stronger) to make
U.S. landfall this season. This has never happened before -- hurricane
record keeping goes back to 1851. Previous years with 3 major
landfalling hurricanes were 2004, 1954, 1933, 1909 and
1893. Meterologists all agree that the several storms pushing
northward through the Atlantic this year 'contributed greatly' to the
excessive rainfall in New England and other northeast areas of the USA
during the past month. (Source: Stu Ostro, The Weather Channel)
The hurricane was blamed for at least six deaths from falling trees,
collapsing roofs and car accidents. One victim was blown into the
windshield of his van. Another died when a sliding glass door fell on
South Florida's three major airports, at Miami, Fort Lauderdale and
Palm Beach, were closed at least into Tuesday.
Wilma brought 8 inches of rain to Miami-Dade County, nearly 6.5 to
Naples and 3 to Fort Lauderdale, and caused considerable street
flooding as sewers were unable to contain the flow.
Wilma was a strong Category 3 hurricane as it came ashore with 125-mph
winds at 6:30 a.m. ET at Cape Romano, about 20 miles south of here.
Wilma earlier pounded Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Cuba, Haiti and
Jamaica, killing 19.
The hurricane sped across the Florida Peninsula in four hours,
whipping both coasts as it slipped to a Category 2 with winds of 105
mph. After blowing into the Atlantic, Wilma regained Category 3
strength in the warm Gulf Stream, but will lose much of its power as
it moves north toward New England and Canada.
About 33,000 people rode out the storm in public shelters. In Fort
Myers Beach, Wilma tossed the sunroom roof of a mobile home into a
tree. Structural damage from downed trees was less severe there
because many had come down last year during Hurricane Charley.
Wilma was the eighth hurricane to strike Florida in 15 months.
O'Driscoll reported from Denver.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Doyle Rice, USATODAY.com weather
Copyright 2005 USA Today.
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