October 17, 2005

Tropical Storm Wilma may enter Gulf of Mexico

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four of seven major weather models
predict Tropical Storm Wilma, which formed in the Caribbean Sea
earlier Monday, would slam into the Yucatan Peninsula in either
Mexico or Belize later this week.

After crossing the Yucatan, some of the models projected
the storm might enter the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast the storm would
graze the northeastern tip of the Yucatan and enter the Gulf of
Mexico where it could threaten the already hurricane-battered
U.S. oil and natural gas rigs and refineries along the Gulf

Two weather models, meanwhile, show the storm turning north
toward western Cuba and Florida's Gulf Coast.

Satellite data indicate maximum sustained winds near 40
miles per hour with higher gusts, the NHC said in an advisory,
making Wilma the 21st named tropical storm of the active and
devastating 2005 Atlantic season, tying the 1933 record for
named storms.

The NHC forecast some strengthening during the next 24

The center of the storm was located about 205 miles
southeast of Grand Cayman at about 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT).

Wilma is moving toward the southwest near five mph with a
slow motion toward the southwest or west expected during the
next 24 hours, the NHC said. The agency noted steering currents
remain weak and some erratic motion was possible during the
next day or two.