Hurricane Wilma has been relentlessly pounding Mexico's Yucatan peninsula with hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall for more than a day. Residents of the southern state of Florida have been told hurricane conditions are possible by Monday and evacuations have been ordered.A powerful Hurricane Wilma spent Saturday near Cancun on the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, battering the region with winds of 175 kilometers per hour as it moved very slowly toward the north.
Forecaster Richard Knabb of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, said some parts of western Cuba and the Yucatan peninsula could receive as much as a one-and-one-half meters of rain. "It is not going to spend as much time over land as we would want to see if we wanted to see some weakening of the system. The bad news, of course, is that down in Mexico, in the areas of Cozumel and Cancun, parts of the Yucatan peninsula are experiencing a relentless continuation of hurricane force winds and extremely heavy rainfall," he said.
Forecasters say Hurricane Wilma, which is already blamed for 10 deaths in the Caribbean, could strengthen after it emerges over the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. Wilma is expected to head toward the southern U.S. state of Florida, where state emergency management director Craig Fugate says winds, flooding and tornadoes are expected over a wide area.
"Some of these effects we expect to go well inland, all the way over to the east coast of Florida. Particularly with the speed of this hurricane, it is possible that it will maintain hurricane strength as it crosses the state. So this event will not just be a coastal event in southwest Florida and the Keys. It potentially can reach further north as the winds impact those areas. We could see again heavy rain and tornadoes, well away from the center of circulation," he said.
Wilma is already causing flooding in south Florida. A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the Florida Keys, on the state's southern tip.