Did Hurricane Wilma have 209 mph sustained winds?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:00 PM GMT on April 28, 2012

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At last week's 30th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. Eric Uhlhorn of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division presented a poster that looked at the relationship between surface winds measured by the SFMR instrument and flight-level winds in two Category 5 storms. Hurricane Hunter flights done into Category 5 Supertyphoon Megi (17 October 2010) and Category 5 Hurricane Felix (03 September 2007) found that the surface winds measured by SFMR were greater than those measured at flight level (10,000 feet.) Usually, surface winds in a hurricane are 10 - 15% less than at 10,000 feet, but he showed that in super-intense Category 5 storms with small eyes, the dynamics of these situations may generate surface winds that are as strong or stronger than those found at 10,000 feet. He extrapolated this statistical relationship (using the inertial stability measured at flight level) to Hurricane Wilma of 2005, which was the strongest hurricane on record (882 mb), but was not observed by the SFMR. He estimated that the maximum wind averaged around the eyewall in Wilma at peak intensity could have been 209 mph, plus or minus 20 mph--so conceivably as high as 229 mph, with gusts to 270 mph. Yowza. That's well in excess of the 200 mph minimum wind speed a top end EF-5 tornado has. The Joplin, Missouri EF-5 tornado of May 22, 2011 had winds estimated at 225 - 250 mph. That tornado ripped pavement from the ground, leveled buildings to the concrete slabs they were built on, and killed 161 people. It's not a pretty thought to consider what Wilma would have done to Cancun, Key West, or Fort Myers had the hurricane hit with sustained winds of what the Joplin tornado had.


Figure 1. Hurricane Wilma's pinhole eye as seen at 8:22 a.m. CDT Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005, by the crew aboard NASA's international space station as the complex flew 222 miles above the storm. At the time, Wilma was the strongest Atlantic hurricane in history, with a central pressure of 882 mb and sustained surface winds estimated at 185 mph. The storm was located in the Caribbean Sea, 340 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. Image source: NASA's Space Photo Gallery.


Figure 2. Damage in Joplin, Missouri after the EF-5 tornado of May 22, 2011. Image credit: wunderphotographer thebige.

Official all-time strongest winds in an Atlantic hurricane: 190 mph
The official record for strongest winds in an Atlantic hurricane is 190 mph, for Hurricane Allen of 1980 as it was entering the Gulf of Mexico, and for Hurricane Camille of 1969, as it was making landfall in Pass Christian, Mississippi. In Dr. Bob Sheets' and Jack Williams' book, Hurricane Watch, they recount the Hurricane Hunters flight into Camile as the hurricane reached peak intensity: On Sunday afternoon, August 17, and Air Force C-130 piloted by Marvin Little penetrated Camille's eye and measured a pressure of 26.62 inches of mercury. "Just as we were nearing the eyewall cloud we suddenly broke into a clear area and could see the sea surface below," the copilot, Robert Lee Clark, wrote in 1982. "What a sight! Although everyone on the crew was experienced except me, no one had seen the wind whip the sea like that before...Instead of the green and white splotches normally found in a storm, the sea surface was in deep furrows running along the wind direction....The velocity was beyond the descriptions used in our training and far beyond anything we had ever seen." So, the 190 mph winds of Camille were an estimate that was off the scale from anything that had ever been observed in the past. The books that the Hurricane Hunters carried, filled with photos of the sea state at various wind speeds, only goes up to 150 mph (Figure 2). I still used this book to estimate surface winds when I flew with the Hurricane Hunters in the late 1980s, and the books are still carried on the planes today. In the two Category 5 hurricanes I flew into, Hugo and Gilbert, I never observed the furrowing effect referred to above. Gilbert had surface winds estimated at 175 mph based on what we measured at flight level, so I believe the 190 mph wind estimate in Camille may be reasonable.


Figure 3. Appearance of the sea surface in winds of 130 knots (150 mph). Image credit: Wind Estimations from Aerial Observations of Sea Conditions (1954), by Charlie Neumann.


Figure 4. Radar image of Hurricane Camille taken at 22:15 UTC August 17, 1969, a few hours before landfall in Mississippi. At the time, Camille had the highest sustained winds of any Atlantic hurricane in history--190 mph.

The infamous hurricane hunter flight into Wilma during its rapid intensification
While I was at last week's conference, I had a conversation with Rich Henning, a flight meteorologist for NOAA's Hurricane Hunters, who served for many years as a Air Reconnaissance Weather Officer (ARWO) for the Air Force Hurricane Hunters. Rich told me the story of the Air Force Hurricane Hunter mission into Hurricane Wilma in the early morning hours of October 19, 2005, as Wilma entered its explosive deepening phase. The previous airplane, which had departed Category 1 Wilma six hours previously, flew through Wilma at an altitude of 5,000 feet. They measured a central pressure of 954 mb when they departed the eye at 23:10 UTC. The crew of the new plane assumed that the hurricane, though intensifying, was probably not a major hurricane, and decided that they would also go in at 5,000 feet. Winds outside the eyewall were less than hurricane force, so this seemed like a reasonable assumption. Once the airplane hit the eyewall, they realized their mistake. Flight level winds quickly rose to 186 mph, far in excess of Category 5 strength, and severe turbulence rocked the aircraft. The aircraft was keeping a constant pressure altitude to maintain their height above the ocean during the penetration, but the area of low pressure at Wilma's center was so intense that the airplane descended at over 1,000 feet per minute during the penetration in order to maintain a constant pressure altitude. By they time they punched into the incredibly tiny 4-mile wide eye, which had a central pressure of just 901 mb at 04:32 UTC, the plane was at a dangerously low altitude of 1,500 feet--not a good idea in a Category 5 hurricane. The pilot ordered an immediate climb, and the plane exited the other side of Wilma's eyewall at an altitude of 10,000 feet. They maintained this altitude for the remainder of the flight. During their next pass through the eye at 06:11 UTC, the diameter of the eye had shrunk to an incredibly tiny two miles--the smallest hurricane eye ever measured. During their third and final pass through the eye at 0801 UTC, a dropsonde found a central pressure of 882 mb--the lowest pressure ever observed in an Atlantic hurricane. In the span of just 24 hours, Wilma had intensified from a 70 mph tropical storm to a 175 mph category 5 hurricane--an unprecedented event for an Atlantic hurricane. Since the pressure was still falling, it is likely that Wilma became even stronger after the mission departed.

I'll have a new post by Tuesday at the latest.

Jeff Masters

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1881. Skyepony (Mod)
Watching JoeMiller. They were in hail. Now occasional cloud to ground lightning.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 162 Comments: 37498
They posted this as the photo of that tornado.....

Link

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99mb Low?

Greenland is getting the whip!!!
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Quoting sunlinepr:


Done....


XXXOOO
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1877. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
thanks the voices in the echo chamber have now stopped
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53308
Quoting presslord:


Yo! Can you change that to a link? Thanks!


Done.... My bad....
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Tweets Top / All
42s KXAN Weather KXAN Weather ‏ @KXAN_Weather

Looks like Medford, OK may have dodged a bullet. Tornado damage reported just east and west of the town. Weather is coming up on KXAN.
2m Dan Skoff Dan Skoff ‏ @weatherdan

@spann Medford narrowly missed tornado damage. Major damage 1 mile W of Medford & 6 miles E of Medford, but nothing in town of Medford.
In reply to James Spann 
3m David Barouski David Barouski ‏ @TornadoesDave

Prelim report is a #tornado barely missed #Medford #Oklahoma but has been some damage rpts near town but nothing major that Ive heard of yet
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Quoting presslord:


Yo! Can you change that to a link? Thanks!
Thank you for asking that. Night all.
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Quoting sunlinepr:
Maybe not, because on twitter there are some reports of heavy damage.... will have to wait...


no injuries yet...mostly barn damage,,,
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Quoting sunlinepr:
Watch live streaming video from innovationwx at livestream.com

Action:
Quote
| Ignore User


Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 18 Comments: 5982



Yo! Can you change that to a link? Thanks!
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
I have to ask you what is with these storms going all directions NW,NE,N,E,SE, they are going everywhere.


The storms in general seem to be going in a NEerly direction. Storms that get surface-based then seem to be right-turning such that they are going Easterly or Southeastly. Some of the more outflow dominant storms seem to be going southeasterly. I've seen a few circulations moving at deviant directions compared to the parent storms, although the circulations seem to do that when they are occluding; left-curving during occlusion isn't all that atypical...
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Quoting sunlinepr:
Have to double check, because on twitter there are some reports of damage....
Yes but not a direct hit on the town.
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Pond Creek seems to just have a VERY strong meso right now. Good base for large tornadoes.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
They got REALLY lucky the storm was 1 wobble away from hitting the town.
Maybe not, because on twitter there are some reports of heavy damage.... will have to wait...
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Quoting ScottLincoln:

It actually kinda looks like there was a tornado that weakened as it was moving into Medford, then a new tornado formed just on the east side. Similar to the Greensburg, KS, case from earlier today, but probably stronger tornadoes this time.
I have to ask you what is with these storms going all directions NW,NE,N,E,SE, they are going everywhere.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
They got REALLY lucky the storm was 1 wobble away from hitting the town.

It actually kinda looks like there was a tornado that weakened as it was moving into Medford, then a new tornado formed just on the east side. Similar to the Greensburg, KS, case from earlier today, but probably stronger tornadoes this time.
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Pond Creek storm is now the more dominate.
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Wow this is a crazy day.
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Quoting sunlinepr:
@reedtimmerTVN - News9 is not reporting damage in Medford. There was a home damaged and some barns destroyed west of town but main town ok.
They got REALLY lucky the storm was 1 wobble away from hitting the town.
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1861. Tygor
April comes to an end, some maxima for the month:

Temperature: 98.1 °F
Dew Point: 71.8 °F
Humidity: 95.0%
Wind Speed: 14.5mph from the SE
Wind Gust: 27.3mph from the SE
Precipitation: 0.07in

Weather restrictions in STAGE 2

We could really use some rain, but there is no chance of it for the next ten days apparently. We need a tropical storm pretty bad at this point.
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Messy but stronger.
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Link
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Quoting ScottLincoln:
While my GR2Analyst catches up to the game, just wanted to pass along a note. Red/purple TVS detections in GR2Analyst are rare. I've seen only a few causes where a purple TVS is not associated with a significant tornado (strong/violent). Also, with the radar beam sampling from KVNX at this low of an elevation and at this resolution, a wider tornado will appear as a TS instead of a TVS, and SW spikes will not be as evident.


Upton reviewing the data further, I would say that I am fairly confident that the circulation that occluded and moved north toward Wakita within the last 30min was a strong tornado (EF2+ for buildings in the path). Luckily the area appears very rural, although the debris signature was pretty clear on radar, directly in conjunction with the 170kt+ shear at less than 1000ft AGL. Wow.
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1857. LargoFl
good night guys,stay safe out there........................TORNADO WARNING
OKC053-071-010300-
/O.NEW.KOUN.TO.W.0044.120501T0228Z-120501T0300Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
928 PM CDT MON APR 30 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NORMAN HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
NORTHWESTERN KAY COUNTY IN OKLAHOMA...
NORTHEASTERN GRANT COUNTY IN OKLAHOMA...

* UNTIL 1000 PM CDT

* AT 920 PM CDT...TRAINED STORM SPOTTERS REPORTED A TORNADO AND
RADAR DETECTS A TORNADO ABOUT 4 MILES EAST OF MEDFORD. THIS
TORNADO WAS MOVING EAST AT 15 MPH. ANOTHER SEVERE STORM IS QUICKLY
APPROACHING FROM THE WEST. THOSE RESPONDING TO REPORTS OF INJURY
OR DAMAGE IN AND AROUND MEDFORD SHOULD BE PREPARE FOR ANOTHER
STORM. WINDS OVER 70 MPH ARE POSSIBLE WITH THIS STORM.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
BRAMAN...DEER CREEK...NARDIN...RENFROW AND HUNNEWELL.

THIS INCLUDES INTERSTATE 35 BETWEEN MILE MARKERS 221 AND 234.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

GET IN...GET DOWN AND COVER UP. TAKE COVER NOW IN A STORM SHELTER
OR AN INTERIOR ROOM OF A STURDY BUILDING. STAY AWAY FROM DOORS AND
WINDOWS.

&&

LAT...LON 3678 9729 3678 9772 3696 9767 3701 9741
3700 9735 3700 9735
TIME...MOT...LOC 0220Z 254DEG 12KT 3680 9769

$$
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 37145
1856. LargoFl
SHORT TERM FORECAST
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MIAMI FL
1008 PM EDT MON APR 30 2012

AMZ610-650-651-670-671-FLZ063-066>068-071-072-168 -172-010430-
LAKE OKEECHOBEE-
COASTAL WATERS FROM JUPITER INLET TO DEERFIELD BEACH, FL OUT 20 NM-
COASTAL WATERS FROM DEERFIELD BEACH TO OCEAN REEF, FL OUT 20 NM-
WATERS FROM JUPITER INLET TO DEERFIELD BEACH, FL EXTENDING FROM
20 NM TO 60 NM-
WATERS FROM DEERFIELD BEACH TO OCEAN REEF, FL EXTENDING FROM 20 NM
TO THE TERRITORIAL WATERS OF THE BAHAMAS-GLADES-HENDRY-
INLAND PALM BEACH-METRO PALM BEACH-INLAND BROWARD-METRO BROWARD-
COASTAL PALM BEACH-COASTAL BROWARD-
1008 PM EDT MON APR 30 2012

.NOW...
AN AREA OF LIGHT RAIN...WITH EMBEDDED HEAVIER SHOWERS...WILL
CONTINUE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC WATERS AND ONSHORE AFFECTING
NORTHEAST BROWARD COUNTY AND THE PALM BEACH COUNTY COASTLINES.
THE ACTIVITY WILL WEAKEN INLAND BUT SOME LIGHT RAINFALL WILL OCCUR
IN THE LAKE OKEECHOBEE REGION. SOME OF THE HEAVIER SHOWERS OVER
THE ATLANTIC MAY PRODUCE HIGHER WINDS AND SEAS AND MARINERS NEED
TO BE CAUTIOUS.

$$
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 37145


chaser says this one is one the ground or will be shortly
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Alright, I have to go to bed guys.

Gotta get ready for school and an even bigger day tomorrow.



G'night. Thanks for some very interesting reading this evening.

Lin
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


The supercell is splitting...


Nope, just one particularly potent cyclic supercell.
One that is about to get overtaken by an outflow-dominant cluster to the west.
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hopefully this 30% doesn't bust like the last one we had here - I wanna see some real storms in the twin cities tomorrow =)

goodnight to you.

Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Alright, I have to go to bed guys.

Gotta get ready for school and an even bigger day tomorrow.

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While my GR2Analyst catches up to the game, just wanted to pass along a note. Red/purple TVS detections in GR2Analyst are rare. I've seen only a few causes where a purple TVS is not associated with a significant tornado (strong/violent). Also, with the radar beam sampling from KVNX at this low of an elevation and at this resolution, a wider tornado will appear as a TS instead of a TVS, and SW spikes will not be as evident.
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Alright, I have to go to bed guys.

Gotta get ready for school and an even bigger day tomorrow.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31608


Sponge Blob Square Pants...
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Quoting Ameister12:
Based on the KFOR-TV radar, their might be a debris ball. What do you guys think?


Based on that radar image alone, no. Red-colored reflectivities in a hook do not necessarily mean debris ball.
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He says it weakening and it might be but not for long. Yellow TVS now.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
We have two tornadoes on the ground right now...A rope/elephant trunk tornado near Wakita (as of 5 minutes ago) and a cone tornado entering Medford.

Power is out in Medford.



The supercell is splitting...
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Based on the KFOR-TV radar, there might be a debris ball. What do you guys think?
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Quoting VirginIslandsVisitor:


Hi. Not often that I post here but for once I can answer a question!

http://kfor.com/on-air/live-streaming/



Thank you!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11014
Quoting ScottLincoln:


Doesn't look like two supercells. It looks like one supercell with an area of rotation occluding while a new area forms to it's east/southeast. Not all that atypical for strong supercells.
Yah I just realized that.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
It just split into 2 supercells. The northern one moving NW. This is classic super cell behavior you typically see in the early stages of a super cells. Its very rare you see it this late.


Doesn't look like two supercells. It looks like one supercell with an area of rotation occluding while a new area forms to it's east/southeast. Not all that atypical for strong supercells.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
And we may remember this one for a while.
This is connected to the north storm.
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"Something big just got hit."

Jeez, this isn't good.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31608
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
And we may remember this one for a while.
I'm afraid you may be right.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Who is broadcasting live? With sound.


Hi. Not often that I post here but for once I can answer a question!

http://kfor.com/on-air/live-streaming/

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I should never ever try to get ready for bed again. That is exactly when the supercells ramp up the insanity.
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Quoting SouthDadeFish:
Supercells can go through cycles like this. It is what produces "tornado families"
And we may remember this one for a while.
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Huge debris cloud in Medford. Damage is being done in the town.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Who is broadcasting live? With sound.

KFOR Live Streaming
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31608
Debris cloud confirmed on the ground and on radar.
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Large debris cloud in Medford.

(sad face)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31608
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Actually the north storm seems like its starting to get better organized again. Also tornado has not hit Medford yet.
Supercells can go through cycles like this. It is what produces "tornado families"
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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