Hurricane Wilma Makes Landfall in Florida
By Capt. Steve Alvarez, USA
American Forces Press Service
ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 24, 2005 Hurricane Wilma reached Florida's western coast around 6:30 a.m. today with sustained winds of about 125 mph.
Waiting for the storm to come ashore, dispersed throughout the state, were some 2,400 Florida National Guard soldiers and airmen, the Florida governor's office said.
Wilma made landfall at Cape Romano on the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane, according to Florida's Division of Emergency Management. It is the eighth hurricane to hit Florida this season.
Members of the Florida National Guard will be deployed to the hardest-hit areas, Guard officials said. They will be ready to provide security, conduct search-and-rescue operations and provide humanitarian services such as aid in the distribution of food, ice and water. The response arsenal also includes CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters that can conduct search-and-rescue missions and distribute relief aid.
Florida Guard officials said their Emergency Operations Center has been operating 24 hours per day, monitoring Wilma, since Oct. 21. Planning for relief operations began Oct. 18.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush mobilized around 2,400 Florida guardsmen for Hurricane Wilma. The Florida Guard has responded to seven hurricanes in 14 months, Guard officials said. Currently the Florida National Guard has 2,000 personnel deployed in the war on terror worldwide.
The Florida National Guard "remains ready and committed to provide the necessary National Guard force, both Army and Air, in support of continued hurricane threats to Florida," said Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, Florida adjutant general.
"We currently have more than 7,500 troops available to support emergency operations," he said. "We can place 6,500 soldiers in the affected area. Plus, we have troops on standby from Georgia, Alabama and nearby states through our emergency management assistance compact. The National Guard Bureau has more than sufficient forces and equipment to support our requests."
According to state emergency personnel, 7,000 utility workers with 3,000 trucks are on standby to repair downed power lines throughout southern Florida. More than 200 truckloads of ice and water, and 86,000 meals were pre-positioned north and south of Wilma's path to facilitate distribution after the storm passed.
Florida National Guard family readiness personnel have placed thousands of calls to the more than 2,000 families of Florida National Guard soldiers and airmen who are deployed around the world to ensure Guard families have what they need to face Wilma.
The National Weather Service said hurricane warnings remain posted from Longboat Key on the west coast of Florida to Titusville on the east coast, including the Florida Keys and Lake Okeechobee. Tropical storm warnings and watches are still in effect for the remainder of Florida's east and west coasts and tornado watches have been posted for most of Florida.
In West Melbourne on the east coast of Central Florida, a tornado damaged a building and an apartment complex earlier this morning. The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center calls for Wilma to continue accelerating northeastward in the Atlantic Ocean during the next 24 hours.
Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 90 miles and tropical storm force winds extended outward up to 230 miles from Wilma's eye, posing a significant threat for wind damage across South Florida.
Storm surge flooding of 12 to 18 feet above normal tide levels is possible along the extreme southwest coast of Florida. A five- to nine-foot storm surge is anticipated in the Keys and Lake Okeechobee.
Storm surge flooding of two to four feet is possible along the extreme southeastern coast of Florida. Rainfall totals of four to six inches, with amounts up to 10 inches in some areas, are possible across Florida. Flood watches have been issued for the Keys and most of the peninsula counties.
Guard personnel will respond once the storm passes through the state, Florida Guard officials said. Thus far, there have been no reported deaths or injuries in Florida