This devastating Florida hurricane was named 11 years ago today

At 2 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2005 an innocuous tropical depression south of Cuba spun up into a tropical storm named Wilma.

For the next week, South Florida watched as the storm made its way to the Yucatan Peninsula gaining record strength. Its rapid intensification to a Category 5 storm with 184 mph winds and a minimum central pressure of 882 mb stunned forecasters.

By Oct. 24, Wilma was down to a strong Category 3 storm and surging onto Florida’s southwest coast. It cut across the state like a buzzsaw.

Read: ‘When we heard glass breaking, we went running into the family room’

The last one, Category 3 or higher, to hit the U.S. coast was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

The last one, Category 3 or higher, to hit the U.S. coast was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Read: A decade later, emotions over Hurricane Wilma still raw

It was the last major hurricane to make landfall in Florida.

“It was unprecedented,” National Hurricane Center senior storm specialist Richard Pasch told The Palm Beach Post last year.  “If you could designate a hurricane a Category 6, that’s probably what we would have said Wilma was.”

Wilma tossed hundreds of railroad cars from their tracks in Clewiston, left more than 6 million Floridians without electricity, leveled a Lake Worth church, blew trailer parks to bits and blasted windows out of condos on A1A.

This satellite image provided by NOAA and taken at 3:15 p.m. EDT Thursday Oct. 20, 2005 shows Hurricane Wilma as it approaches the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. Wilma, a Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph, churned toward the Yucatan peninsula and south Florida after its outer bands hit Haiti and Jamaica.

This satellite image provided by NOAA and taken at 3:15 p.m. EDT Thursday Oct. 20, 2005 shows Hurricane Wilma as it approaches the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. Wilma, a Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph, churned toward the Yucatan peninsula and south Florida after its outer bands hit Haiti and Jamaica.

In the confusing days that followed landfall, when Palm Beach County was plunged into black nights and cold showers, the magnitude of Wilma and its place in history were hard to appreciate.

Photos: A look back at Hurricane Wilma 

Pasch, who authored Wilma’s post mortem for the National Hurricane Center, described the increase as “a remarkable, explosive strengthening episode,” and “an unprecedented event for an Atlantic tropical cyclone.”

Near the same time, an Air Force Reserve crew was piloting a C-130 transport plane into the storm. The hurricane hunters measured the fierce winds, but were more shocked by something else.

Wilma’s central air pressure was 882 millibars: a record low value for a hurricane in the Atlantic basin.

BOYNTON BEACH : Aluminum and debris from the neighboring Royal Manor mobile home park flies through the air and wraps around the lines at Gateway Blvd and Military Trail as broken power poles block Military Trail while Hurricane Wilma passed through Palm Beach County Monday, OCt. 24, 2005. Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post

BOYNTON BEACH : Aluminum and debris from the neighboring Royal Manor mobile home park flies through the air and wraps around the lines at Gateway Blvd and Military Trail as broken power poles block Military Trail while Hurricane Wilma passed through Palm Beach County Monday, OCt. 24, 2005. Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post

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Air pressure is a measure of a hurricane’s intensity, the amount of power in the vacuum formed by winds roaring toward the eye. The lower the pressure, the more powerful a storm.

Wilma would hold the record until 2015 when Hurricane Patricia in the Pacific mustered more than 200 mph winds and a minimum central pressure of 879 millibars.

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