Hurricane Wilma became the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record on Wednesday as it churned toward western Cuba and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula on a track toward Florida, having already killed 10 people in Haiti.
The season’s record-tying 21st storm, fueled by the warm waters of the northwest Caribbean Sea, strengthened alarmingly into a Category 5 hurricane, the top rank on the five-step scale of hurricane intensity.
A U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane measured maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, with higher gusts, the U.S.
National Hurricane Center said.
The plane also recorded a minimum pressure of 882 millibars, the lowest value ever observed in the Atlantic basin. That meant Wilma was stronger than any storm on record, including Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in late August, and Rita, which hit the Texas-Louisiana coast in September.
Before this Rita was the strongest ever measured.
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