CATAGORY 1, CATAGORY 2, CATAGORY 3...WHAT WILL IT BE?
This afternoon, the National Hurricane Centre issued hurricane watches for the Florida peninsula from Longboat Key south along the Gulf Coast, and from Titusville south along the Atlantic coast.
Wilma is about to make it's exit from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and is forecast to strengthen slightly before hitting the westerlies as it races in the Gulf of Mexico and weakening again.
Yesterday, there was some thought that by the time Wilma reaches the Sunshine State, it would only be a Catagory 1 or possibly weak Catagory 2 storm. But the discussion now says:
THE INTENSITY OF WILMA WHILE CROSSING FLORIDA REMAINS QUITE UNCERTAIN... AND THE BEST ESTIMATE IS THAT IT WILL BE A CATEGORY TWO OR THREE AT LANDFALL. THE WIND FIELD IS FORECAST TO EXPAND AS IT ACCELERATES AND CROSSES THE FLORIDA PENINSULA. THEREFORE... THE TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS WILL LIKELY COVER A LARGE AREA.
The local forecast for Lakeland/Polk County for Sunday night and Monday read:
Sunday Night: Periods of showers, mainly after 2am. Low around 70. Windy, with a east northeast wind 14 to 17 mph increasing to between 23 and 26 mph. Winds could gust as high as 46 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.
Monday: Periods of showers, mainly before 11am. High near 72. Windy, with a north northwest wind 48 to 51 mph decreasing to between 38 and 41 mph. Winds could gust as high as 69 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New rainfall amounts between one and two inches possible.
There is still a certain amount of uncertainity about what will occur during the next 48 hours, but it's time to seriously begin making final plans.