Effects of Hurricane Wilma in Florida

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Hurricane Wilma
Category 3 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Hurricane Wilma 200510241245.jpg
Satellite image of Wilma over Florida on October 24, 2005
DurationOctober 22–25, 2005
Winds1-minute sustained: 120 mph (195 km/h)
Gusts: 150 mph (240 km/h)
Pressure950 mbar (hPa); 28.05 inHg
Fatalities30 total (5 direct)
Damage$18.6 billion (2005 USD)
Areas affectedFlorida
Part of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season

The effects of Hurricane Wilma in Florida were catastrophic, becoming the then second-costliest Florida hurricane ever recorded. Hurricane Wilma was first evident near Jamaica and was classified as a hurricane on October 18. Initially, orange future prices soared on October 19, 2005. As the system drew closer, schools and government offices closed on October 21. Professional and college sports games were rescheduled during Wilma's advance towards Florida. Evacuations were ordered for southwestern Florida and the Keys. As the storm made landfall, a storm surge swept into coastal sections of southern Florida and high winds led to significant damage near and along Wilma's path, particularly to the power grid. Some locations were without power for 2–3 weeks after the storm. Wilma spawned ten tornadoes in Florida.[1] At least 30 Wilma-related deaths were reported in Florida; five people died directly due to the hurricane's impacts.[2] Damage in Florida totaled $18.6 billion (2005 USD; $23.5 billion 2018 USD).[3]


Satellite image of Wilma over South Florida

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued many tropical cyclone warnings and watches in anticipation of Wilma. First, a hurricane watch was posted for the Florida Keys including Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay at 15:00 UTC on October 22. Six hours later, NHC issued another hurricane watch for the west coast of Florida south of Longboat Key and on the east coast of Florida to the south of Titusville, including Lake Okeechobee. At 21:00 UTC on October 23, a tropical storm watch was put into effect on the west coast from Longboat Key northward to the Steinhatchee River and on the east coast from Titusville northward to Fernandina Beach. Early the following day, the hurricane watch was upgraded to a hurricane warning on the west coast and on the east coast from Jupiter Inlet southward, including Lake Okeechobee.[1]

The hurricane warning along the east coast stretching from the Jupiter Inlet southward was expended northward to Titusville at 09:00 UTC on October 23. Simultaneously, the portion of the tropical storm watch from Titusville to Flagler Beach was upgraded to a tropical storm warning. The tropical storm warning was extended further northward to St. Augustine at 03:00 UTC on October 24. Twelve hours later, the tropical storm watch was discontinued from St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach. At 17:00 UTC, the tropical storm warning from Longboat Key to the Steinhatchee River was canceled. The remainder of the hurricane warning in effect was downgraded to a tropical storm warning about 90 minutes later. By 21:00 UTC on October 24, all remaining tropical cyclone warnings and watches were discontinued.[1]

A mandatory evacuation of residents was ordered for the Florida Keys in Monroe County. However, media reports suggested that as many as 80% of residents may have ignored the evacuation order. County offices, schools and courts were closed Monday, October 24. At least 300 Keys evacuees were housed at the Monroe County shelter at Florida International University in Miami-Dade County.[4]

All Collier County public schools were declared closed for Friday, October 21. The schools were closed to "allow parents and staff to prepare for the storm and potential evacuation", and also allowed "for needed preparation of schools to be used as hurricane shelters." The schools remained closed on Monday, October 24 as the hurricane made landfall.[5]

Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers completed an evacuation; classes were canceled until further notice. Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida also evacuated by 5 p.m. EDT on October 20. All campuses of the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and the University of Central Florida were closed on Monday, October 24.

Mandatory evacuations were in effect for all Collier County residents living West or South of US 41. Other areas that were included in the mandatory evacuation were Seagate, Parkshore, The Moorings, Coquina Sands, Olde Naples, Aqualane Shores, Port Royal and Royal Harbour. Hurricane shelters in the area were opened. Curfews were put in place for several cities in Lee and Collier counties.[6]

Anticipating high winds all public school districts south of Marion closed their schools on Monday, October 24 in order to prevent possible harm to county employees and students. The last places to issue this warning sat within the gap between bands as tornadoes were observed as far north as Sumter, Marion, Pasco, and Polk Counties. Schools in Palm Beach and Broward counties were closed for two weeks due to extended power outages and some physical damage to school buildings. Schools in Collier and Miami-Dade counties were closed for a little over a week, including the University of Miami and Barry University.

Orange juice futures reached the highest level in six years on Wednesday, October 19, closing up 2.9 cents at $1.118 per pound due to the storm's expected damage to orange trees which would have compounded problems caused the previous year by Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne.[7] As dynamic models moved the storm's track east over Florida, oil futures eased as worries of another direct hit on the oil producing regions of the Gulf of Mexico subsided. There were many robberies reported.

The NFL moved up its regular-season game between Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins to 7 p.m. on Friday, October 21 in anticipation of the hurricane. The NCAA postponed two college football games scheduled in south Florida on Saturday, October 22. Georgia Tech vs. University of Miami was rescheduled for Saturday, November 19 and West Virginia vs South Florida was rescheduled for Saturday, December 3. The NHL rescheduled its Saturday, October 22 regular-season game between the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers to Monday, December 5. Due to roof damage caused by Wilma and the loss of power at the BankAtlantic Center, the Panthers also had to postpone their October 29 match up against the Washington Capitals. Furthermore, a concert by the industrial rock band, Nine Inch Nails, expected to have taken place Monday, October 24, was postponed and later canceled. Key West's Fantasy Fest held around each Halloween was postponed until December.


Florida Power & Light (FPL), the largest electricity utility in the state, reported more than 3,241,000 customers had lost power throughout 21 counties – approximately 75% of FPL customers.[8] This represented the largest electrical outage in Florida history,[1] until Hurricane Irma in 2017 caused roughly 6.7 million customers to lose power in the state.[9] Electrical outages for each customer averaged 5.4 days. Wilma damaged close to 12,400 electrical poles and de-energized 241 substations.[8]

Wilma was blamed for 30 deaths in Florida,[2] of whom five were killed directly by the hurricane's impacts.[1] Damage in Florida totaled $18.6 billion,[3] making Wilma the costliest hurricane in the state since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Monroe County[edit]

Storm surge from Wilma on Key Haven, island suburb of Key West, Florida.

Wilma caused two storm surge events in the Florida Keys, with the first occurring several hours before the storm's landfall in Florida and the second beginning just after the hurricane struck the state. Storm tide estimates during the first surge included 5–6 ft (1.5–1.8 m) at Key West above mean sea level (MSL), 4–5 ft (1.2–1.5 m) above MSL elsewhere in the lower Florida Keys, 3 ft (0.91 m) above MSL in middle Florida Keys (including Marathon), and 2–3 ft (0.61–0.91 m) above MSL in the upper Florida Keys. The second event was more severe and caused the worst coastal flooding in the Florida Keys since Hurricane Betsy in 1965. Key West recorded a storm tide of 6.5 ft (2.0 m) above MSL in the second event. Estimates elsewhere included tides of 5–8 ft (1.5–2.4 m) above MSL between Boca Chica Key and Big Pine Key, 5–8 ft (1.5–2.4 m) above MSL in the middle Florida Keys, and 4.5 ft (1.4 m) above MSL near Jewfish Creek in Key Largo.[10]

Although the Florida Keys likely experienced hurricane-force winds, the highest observed sustained wind speed was a 2-minute average of 71 mph (114 km/h) at Key West International Airport, though the instrument failed before the strongest winds occurred. Several locations recorded hurricane-force gusts, including a 133 mph (214 km/h) gust at the Fort Jefferson National Monument on Dry Tortugas with an anemometer height at 75 ft (23 m) above MSL. On the inhabited islands, wind gusts peaked at 123 mph (198 km/h) on Cudjoe Key.[10]

Storm surge and above normal tides caused extensive flooding, especially in the lower Florida Keys, with Key West and the lower Florida Keys inundated with up to 3 ft (.9 m) of water. Approximately 60% of the homes in Key West were flooded.[11] Much of the originally settled "oldtown", such as the Solares Hill and cemetery areas did not flood due to their higher elevations of 12–16 ft (3.7-4.9 m).[12] The surge destroyed tens of thousands of cars throughout the lower Keys and many houses were flooded with 1–2 feet (.3-.6 m) of seawater. A local newspaper referred to Key West and the lower Keys as a "car graveyard".[13]

The Islamorada village hall was damaged beyond repair, forcing officials to temporarily relocate to the fire station.[14]

Most buildings in Key Largo were unscathed. However, many docks were damaged, several trees were downed, and some areas were flooded. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office closed an 18 mi (29 km) stretch of U.S. Route 1 between Key Largo and Florida City and Card Sound Road due to debris and flooding.[15] The storm also impacted the mainland areas of the county. At Flamingo, a ghost town located in Everglades National Park, many of the facilities were severely damaged, forcing park officials to prohibit camping, lodging, and other services.[16]

Southwest Florida[edit]

The peak of the storm surge occurred when the eye of Wilma had already passed over the Naples area, and the sustained winds during the surge were less than 40 mph (64 km/h).[12] One person died in rural Collier County due to wind-driven debris.[17][18] Observed sustained winds peaked at 84 mph (135 km/h) and gusts reached 102 mph (164 km/h), with both being measured at a pier in Naples.[1] Nearly 170,000 households lost power, equivalent to approximately 94% of electrical customers in the county. Wilma caused about $1.2 billion in damage in Collier County.[19]

The Naples Airport was severely damaged by the hurricane, while areas like Immokalee and East Naples suffered extreme and widespread roof damage to numerous homes and communities. Out of the 170 signaled intersections in Collier County, 130 were destroyed.[17] There was damage to the 90 high-rise condominiums in coastal Naples, where some levels were blown out completely by the high winds brought by the storm. Ninety percent of all mobile homes in East Naples were destroyed, while 30% of the mobile homes in all of Collier County suffered the same fate. Widespread roof damage was evident across the county even outside the City of Naples. At least three deaths were blamed on Hurricane Wilma in Collier County, and widespread wind and water damage is commonplace. One tornado was spawned in Collier County. Throughout Collier County, approximately 5,000 buildings received damage to at least 20% of their structure, while 394 buildings suffered damage to at least 50% of their structure. Wilma destroyed 8 businesses, 2 homes, and 615 mobile homes, with about one-third of that total in Immokalee.[20]

Hurricane Wilma lashed Hendry County with winds of 90 to 100 mph (140 to 160 km/h). In LaBelle, the municipal airport lost several doors at the hangars and the office was flooded. Additionally, aircraft may have been damaged. A number of roads and a bridge in the city were closed due to debris and downed trees.[21] The city of Clewiston was damaged. Some 200‑year‑old trees were toppled and multiple streets flooded,[22] including Route 27.[23] At least 145 dwellings were demolished, including rows of houses in the section of Harlem.[24] Approximately 90 percent of buildings and homes in Clewiston and eastern Hendry County received damage.[20] Much of the cafeteria at Clewiston High School lost its roof and water leakage from the ceiling occurred in several classrooms.[25] The Hendry Regional Medical Center sustained roof damage.[26] The city's three marinas were destroyed and a number of boats were impacted by the storm. Numerous businesses in the city suffered some degree of losses.[27] At the US Sugar Corporation headquarters, the roof was severely damaged.[28]

The small, unincorporated communities of Montura Ranch Estates and Pioneer Plantation were also severely effected. In the former, 47 homes were moderately damaged and 9 were left uninhabitable. Forty dwellings were damaged or destroyed in Pioneer Plantation.[29] Roughly 50% of sugar and orange crops destroyed.[28] The main building of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum lost its roof, causing rain to pour into the building and damage some mannequins.[30] At the Big Cypress Indian Reservation, buildings and homes weakened by previous hurricanes suffered further damage. Branches broke from large live oak trees, while porches and sheds lost roofs.[31] Additionally, a shop filled with Native American arts and crafts was destroyed.[32] The hurricane severely damaged 250 homes and destroyed 550 other homes in Hendry County. Throughout the county, damage totaled about $567 million, with $300 million to agriculture and $267 million in structures.[33]

Southeast Florida[edit]

Nearly every window on the west side of South Beach Community Hospital in Miami Beach was blown out.

Miami-Dade County[edit]

A high rise in Brickell, Miami

Wilma produced hurricane-force winds in Miami-Dade County as well. The Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport observed sustained winds of 85 mph (137 km/h) and gusts up to 105 mph (169 km/h).[1] Twelve deaths occurred in the county, two direct and ten indirect.[34] One direct death occurred in Aventura after a man's boat smashed into a seawall and the other when a man died after his trailer collapsed. A drowning was reported on Maule Lake in North Miami Beach from a capsized boat. Two deaths occurred in Hialeah, one was a 1-year old boy after the car he was in hit a light pole loosened during the storm and the other was a woman who died during a collision at an intersection with no traffic signal.[35] Two additional deaths occurred due to traffic signal outages and two others during repair work. One fatality occurred as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator being used indoors.[34]

In North Bay Village, 10 houseboats were declared "unsafe." A few buildings were damaged, especially the Treasure Bay Clubhouse, which lost its roof and had significant damage on the ground floor.[36] In Miami Beach, the South Beach Community Hospital was severely damaged.[37] Collins Avenue was littered with trees and coconuts, while some other roads were impassable.[38]

Some skyscrapers and high-rises in Miami suffered severe facade damage during the storm, particularly along Brickell Avenue between Route 41 and Coral Way. Among the damaged structures were the Colonial Bank Building, the JW Marriott Miami, Espirito Santo Plaza, and the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, which was the tallest building in Florida.[39][40] Several hangars at the Miami International Airport were deroofed.[41] The Orange Bowl suffered damage to a radio tower, a chain-link fence, and the light banks. Although there was no structural loss, the impact from the storm rekindled discussion about demolishing the stadium.[42] In the lower-income neighborhoods of Allapattah and Liberty City, many businesses, churches, and homes experienced major roof damage.[43] At the Miami Seaquarium on Virginia Key, storm surge intruded into the park and caused significant damage.[44]

A trailer park in Sweetwater, six mobile homes were destroyed and dozens of other suffered damage.[45] In West Kendall, the storm knocked over fences, tore shingles from roofs, uprooted trees, and downed power lines, leaving some without electricity and blocking roads such as Kendall Drive. Similar impact occurred in The Hammocks, with fences, light poles, and trees felled, which blocked some roads. At the Miami MetroZoo (now known as Zoo Miami), roofs and fences were damaged, but the animals were unharmed.[46] The Homestead-Miami Speedway, built to restore Homestead's economy after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, suffered major damage to lights, grandstandings, catch fencing, and garages.[47] One indirect death occurred in Homestead after a man was killed by the tractor he was using to remove debris.[35]

Broward County[edit]

Heavy façade damage to a building in Fort Lauderdale

Estimates indicate that winds between 80 and 100 mph (130 and 160 km/h) lashed Broward County for about five hours.[48] Observed sustained winds in the county peaked at 83 mph (134 km/h) at the airpark in Pompano Beach, while the facility recorded a wind gust of 98 mph (158 km/h) before the anemometer failed. At the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, sustained winds reached 70 mph (110 km/h) and gusts peaked at 99 mph (159 km/h).[1] More than 862,800 Florida Power & Light customers lost electricity.[49] Wilma was the most damaging storm in Broward County since Hurricane King in 1950. Much of the damage was incurred to roofing and siding, while interior damage was caused by rain and winds. Along the Intracoastal Waterway, a number of boats, docks, bulkheads, and dry storage marinas sustained impact, and many houses and businesses suffered roof damage.[48]

According to Broward County's building construction regulatory offices, the hurricane left at least 5,111 dwellings uninhabitable, including 2,800 condominiums and apartments, 1,441 mobile homes, and 42 single-family dwellings. The hurricane also severely damaged or destroyed 170 businesses in the county.[48] The Insurance Disaster Assessment Team estimated that at least 70% of homes and businesses in Coconut Creek, Davie, Margate, North Lauderdale, Plantation, and Sunrise experienced some degree of damage.[50] The storm severely damaged 69 schools, leaving as much as $100 million in damage.[51] Wilma caused approximately $1.2 billion in damage across Broward County.[52] Wilma caused seven deaths in Broward County, one of them direct and the other six indirect. The only direct fatality occurred when a man was struck by a falling tree during the storm. The other deaths were caused by a motorcyclist striking a downed tree, a man being struck by a tree limb while surveying damage, a man falling from a ladder as he was cutting tree branches, a man suffering carbon monoxide after leaving a generator indoors, a man falling through a 40 ft (12 m) hole in a roof,[53] and an electrician dying from electrocution in Fort Lauderdale.[54]

A large tree uprooted in Coral Springs

In Deerfield Beach, sand covered parts of State Road A1A (South Ocean Drive) and reached the second floors of some apartments.[55] Overall, erosion was extensive.[56] At a yacht club along the south side of the Hillsboro Canal, a 40,000 ft (12,000 m) shed sheltering more than 150 boats worth millions of dollars collapsed.[57] About 684 homes were damaged, 100 of which were declared "unsafe".[58] In Lighthouse Point, the storm caused $1.5 million–$2 million in damage, which included cleanup costs. Officials condemned 355 homes as uninhabitable in Coconut Creek.[59] At Tradewinds Park, many of the Christmas lights to be used for the Holiday Fantasy of Lights became tangled around trees or were destroyed.[60] Forty-two dwellings in the city were left uninhabitable, all of which were mobile homes.[58] In Parkland, city properties suffered $300,000 to $500,000 in damage. Wilma left 65 homes and businesses in an unsafe condition in Coral Springs.[59]

In Pompano Beach, a total of 40 homes became uninhabitable, including 20 mobile homes, 11 commercial buildings, 5 apartment and condo units, and 4 single-family dwellings.[61] One of the worst damaged areas was downtown Fort Lauderdale, where several highrise office buildings suffered extensive damage, including One Financial Plaza, AutoNation Tower, Broward Financial Center, the Broward County Administration Building, the 14-floor Broward County School Board building, and the Broward County Courthouse.[62]

In the city of Plantation, 93 buildings sustained major damage. Three single-family dwellings were severely damaged and 16 mobile homes were destroyed in Hollywood.[48] A Coral Springs man who was inspecting damage during the eye of the hurricane was killed by a falling tree, according to a Broward County official.[63] Moderate beach erosion at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park.[48] Severe impact was reported in Davie.[64] At Camp Seminole, a Boy Scout camp owned by the South Florida Council, the storm caused over $1 million in damage to trees, buildings, and other infrastructure.[65] The camp was closed for several years and underwent repairs, re-opening as Camp Elmore in June 2012.[66] A total of 608 trailers, 46 single-family homes, and 38 town homes were rendered uninhabitable, while one business was left in disrepair. Damage in the town alone was approximately $103 million, which included at least $60,000 to municipal buildings and around $150,000 to parks.[64]

Palm Beach County[edit]

An aerial view of Belle Glade after Wilma

In Palm Beach County, more than 90% of Florida Power & Light customers were left without electricity.[67] Most schools in the county had extensive roof and building damage, resulting in an estimated $35.7 million in damage. Also, power failure left schools closed for two weeks.[68] The storm inflicted some degree of damage to more than 55,000 homes and 3,600 businesses.[69] A total of 7.7 million cubic yards of debris was collected after the storm.[68] Overall, Wilma left at least $2.9 billion in damage in Palm Beach County,[69] with $1.6 billion to residential property, $1 billion to businesses, and over $300 million to municipal property. Unincorporated areas of the county suffered about $1.67 billion in damage. Additionally, there was $13 million in damage to parks and $32 million to trees, fences, lights, bleachers, ball fields, walking paths, and buildings at parks.[68] A total of six fatalities were attributed to Hurricane Wilma in Palm Beach County.[67][53]

Belle Glade recorded the strongest wind gust in Florida, reaching 117 mph (188 km/h) at the South Florida Water Management District office.[1] Trees, tree limbs, and power lines were downed in the city.[70] The storm destroyed marinas around Lake Okeechobee. Several boats, vehicles, and adjacent buildings were smashed. At least 53 vessels were beached.[71] Glades General Hospital was damaged so severely that patients were evacuated.[72] The fire station was deroofed, forcing firefighters to relocate to Lakeshore Middle School.[39] Throughout the city, 526 homes suffered damage, while 72 homes were demolished.[73] Further north, the fishing industry in Pahokee was effectively destroyed after the newly-built marina collapsed.[74] The storm also wrecked 172 homes and impacted 487 others.[73] Damage in Pahokee reached at least $41 million, with $1 million to municipal buildings and $40 million to homes.[75]

At Lake Harbor, a tiny lakefront community near the western boundary of Palm Beach County, only seven homes were left standing after the hurricane.[76] About 743 homes[73] – roughly 80% of the dwelling in South Bay – were damaged,[74] and 63 residences were destroyed.[73] The city hall and the fire station suffered heavy roof damage.[77] In Canal Point, trees, branches, power lines, and electrical poles were toppled. Almost complete destruction of the community's mobile homes parks occurred. Several other homes and buildings were inflicted with serious damage.[70] Overall, damage occurred at about 60% of homes in Canal Point.[75] Some historical buildings damaged by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 were destroyed by Wilma.[78] State Road 80, one of the only routes between eastern and western Palm Beach County, was closed after a Florida Power & Light transmission line fell across the highway about 1 mi (1.6 km) west of Lion Country Safari.[72] At the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), 85% of tree islands – "small, wetland forest communities imbedded in a matrix of freshwater marsh" – were damaged by the storm. Less than 50% of the canopies were removed at most tree islands, while the tree islands that suffered the worst impact had larger trees and were near the center of Loxahatchee NWR.[79] The office and visitor centers were both severely damaged and later rebuilt.[80]

A man in the unincorporated community of Loxahatchee died after he was crushed by a tree that pushed him into the windshield of his vehicle.[81] The metal roof at Western Pines Middle School was peeled back, exposing multiple classrooms.[82] In nearby Royal Palm Beach, 331 homes were impacted.[73] Damage there reached about $9 million, including about $1.5 million to village property.[83] The village of Wellington suffered severe damage. The community center nearly lost its roof, the bleachers around the pool collapsed, and fences and canopies surrounding the tennis courts were destroyed. A few local parks experienced similar effects to their bleachers and sports facilities.[84] Palm Beach Central High School was severely damaged. Its kitchen and cafeteria lost portions of their roof, the theater and media center were flooded, the gym suffered a roof leak, and trees, signs, and fences were knocked down throughout campus.[85] Many trees and utility poles were snapped at The Mall at Wellington Green.[72] Approximately 3,955 homes were impacted and 4 others destroyed.[73] Overall, Wellington suffered almost $62 million in damage, with $50.4 million to property, and $3.8 million to public facilities, with repairs costs reaching almost $5.9 million.[86]

Jonathan Dickinson State Park's Missile Tracking Annex in Tequesta observed a sustained wind speed of 82 mph (132 km/h) and a gust of 114 mph (183 km/h).[1] Throughout the village, trees and tree branches littered the streets. A condominium was evacuated after an air conditioner was detached from the roof, resulting in water damage.[87] The recreation center, water treatment plant, and public safety building all experienced roof damage and water intrusion.[88] Ninety-five homes and twenty-six businesses in the city suffered mostly minor damage.[73][88] Overall, damage in the village reached about $5.2 million.[68] In Jupiter, the storm brought similar impact to public facilities, parks, and roads.[88] However, dwellings fared much worse, with 2,673 damaged and 14 destroyed.[73] At Riverbend Park, many trees fell along the park's hiking, canoeing, and kayaking trails. Several chickee huts suffered minor damage.[89] The damage toll for the town of Jupiter was over $23.3 million.[68] In Jupiter Farms, the police substation, originally owned by Burt Reynolds, was inflicted extensive impact both on the interior and exterior. The roof, the air conditioning system, and several walls were damaged. State Road 706 (Indiantown Road) was blocked due to a downed power line and overflowing culverts. Low-lying areas experienced minor flooding.[89]

In Juno Beach, several commercial and business properties were damaged, including two shopping centers on U.S. Route 1, a One-Stop store, and a community clubhouse. A number of beach walkovers and signs were damaged, while many trees were toppled at a park.[90] Twelve houses received structurally impacts, with one being completely demolished.[73] Total damage in Juno Beach was light compared to many other county municipalities, reaching around $1.48 million.[68] Several public facilities in Palm Beach Gardens were impacted by the storm. At a baseball field and a separate sports complex, bleachers, lights, and trees were downed. Five fire stations suffered damage to their roofs and equipment. City hall experienced damage to its roof and air-conditioning system.[90] About 3,481 dwellings were inflicted damage to some degree, while 12 others were destroyed.[73] The suffered about $30.1 million in damage.[68] Several commercial and public properties were damaged in North Palm Beach, including a condominium, a maintenance building, an office building, a bank, a country club, a park, and a baseball field.[90] Additionally, 35 homes received structural impact. Overall, the village experienced about $3.1 ,million in damage.[68]

In Lake Park, several businesses and a public works building on State Road 811 (10th Street) were extensively damaged.[91] There was also light damage to the roof of the town hall and at the Lake Park Marina.[90] Additionally, 279 homes were structurally impacted, 46 severely.[73] Two parks had a number of downed lights, fences, trees, and benches.[70] Damage in Lake Park totaled about $9.7 million.[68] The Wells Recreation Center and the Ocean Mall in Riviera Beach both suffered extensive damage. The latter was to be condemned, but was later rebuilt.[83][92] Severe impact to housing occurred in the city, with 1,191 homes damaged and 4 destroyed.[73] Damage in Riviera Beach approached $18.4 million.[68] In Palm Beach Shores, the roof of a restaurant and 41 homes suffered structural impact during the storm.[73][83] Damage in the city was light, totaling about $670,000.[68] One person died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Mangonia Park while sleeping in a house with a smoldering barbecue grill inside.[53] The Ande Monofilament headquarters suffered severe damage,[93] while a total of 41 homes received minor impact.[73] The town received only about $1.17 million in damage.[68]

Sustained hurricane-force winds and gusts up to 101 mph (163 km/h) lashed West Palm Beach.[1] In downtown West Palm Beach, a large construction crane fell and broke water and gas lines, causing water and gas to spew into the streets.[94] The Comeau Building, which survived the 1928 hurricane, lost some windows and a section of its roof. Debris from the roof littered Clematis Street and crushed a parked car.[81] The Palm Beach County Courthouse and Board of County Commissioners building suffered only broken windows. A portion of the roof at the police department was peeled off.[94] At city hall, windows were broken and four out of the five floors sustained damage.[95] A total of 20 city-owned buildings were impacted structurally, with an overall loss of about $12.3 million.[83] At the Carefree Theatre, a theatre that screened foreign films and hosted small concerts, suffered extensive roof damage. The Carefree Theatre was moved into a former church building in 2007 and renamed The Theatre, but closed in 2008.[96] A roof leak at St. Mary's Medical Center forced staff to evacuate patients to other rooms.[39] The 1515 Tower, which was abandoned due to heavy impact by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004,[97] suffered further damage during Wilma.[98] Along the Intracoastal Waterway, many boats capsized or crashed into the seawall.[94] On U.S. Route 1 between Belvedere Road and State Road 80 (Southern Boulevard), several stores in the Antique Row section had broken windows, interior damage, and rain-soaked merchandise and furniture.[68]

The gymnasium of Forest Hill Community High School, which was serving as a shelter, had a portion of the roof torn-off and rain began to pour in. At the South Florida Fairgrounds some of the metal sidings were shredded off the Americraft Expo Center.[94] At Yesteryear Village, an open-air historic park on the grounds, several buildings were damaged, but none beyond repair.[99] Twenty-eight of the fifty exhibits at the Palm Beach Zoo were damaged, three beyond repairs. There was also serious impact to the carousel and veterinarian hospital.[100] Many trees were downed and much of the vegetation was ruined. The zoo alone suffered about $1.5 million in damage.[101] At Okeeheelee Park, the roofs of multiple buildings were removed at the equestrian center, which was under construction at the time. Hurricane Frances, Jeanne, and Wilma combined toppled over 70% of the trees at Mounts Botanical Garden, while Wilma itself damaged the office buildings.[102] Throughout West Palm Beach, 1,194 businesses suffered minor damage and 105 others experienced severe impact, while one was obliterated.[83] Additionally, 6,036 homes received impact from the storm, while 16 were completely demolished.[73] Damage in the city reached approximately $425.8 million, with almost two-third of the total to businesses.[68]

Tree damage at a home in Palm Springs

In Palm Beach, damage was primarily limited to roofs, vegetation, and windows, and mostly occurred in the southern end of town. An 83-year-old man in Palm Beach suffered a fatal heart attack around the time he was struck by a sliding glass door.[53] A total of 51 homes in the town experienced damage.[73] Overall, damage in Palm Beach was approximately $9.4 million.[68] A wind gust of 105 mph (169 km/h) was observed in Greenacres.[103] Several roadways were blocked in the city due to falling trees. Two buildings at an apartment complex were evacuated after they began to lean.[72] About 627 residences were impacted and 19 others obliterated.[73] The roofs of two buildings at John I. Leonard Community High School suffered heavy damage.[85] Overall, damage to homes and businesses reach about $18 million.[91] In Palm Springs, 460 multi-family dwellings were severely damaged – the most in a single municipality in the county. A total of 2,462 homes were inflicted impact, while 5 residences were demolished.[73] Despite this, the village experienced only $6.1 million in damage.[68]

The sixth floor of JFK Medical Center in Atlantis was partially removed, causing staff to move 34 patients to lower floors.[81] The city as a whole suffered relatively light impact, with only nine houses damaged.[73] In Lake Worth, a church on State Road 802 (Lake Avenue) suffered the complete loss of its sanctuary and only a large cross remained standing.[104] The Lake Worth Playhouse, a theatre built in 1924, lost a portion of its roof above the stage and then rain poured in, flooding the dressing room, damaging the stage, and ruining sound and light mechanisms.[105] At the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach Community College, several windows at the library shattered and then rain poured in, destroying about 1,000 books.[106] A senior citizen high-rise known as the Lake Worth Towers suffered roof damage.[107] At an elderly assistance facility at Haverhill Road and Lantana Road, most of the roof was blown off.[108] About 27 homes were destroyed and 2,491 homes suffered structural impact,[73] while 7 businesses were demolished and 93 others were damaged.[109] Damage in Lake Worth amounted to $28.3 million.[68]

Municipalities of Palm Beach County
1. Pahokee 2. Belle Glade 3. South Bay
4. Tequesta 5. Jupiter Inlet Colony 6. Jupiter
7. Juno Beach 8. Palm Beach Gardens 9. North Palm Beach
10. Lake Park 11. Riviera Beach 12. Palm Beach Shores
13. Mangonia Park 14. Palm Beach 15. West Palm Beach
16. Haverhill 17. Glen Ridge 18. Cloud Lake
19. Palm Springs 20. Lake Clarke Shores 21. Royal Palm Beach
22. Wellington 23. Greenacres 24. Atlantis
25. Lake Worth 26. South Palm Beach 27. Lantana
28. Manalapan 29. Hypoluxo 30. Boynton Beach
31. Ocean Ridge 32. Golf 33. Briny Breezes
34. Gulf Stream 35. Delray Beach 36. Highland Beach
37. Boca Raton 38. Loxahatchee Groves

In Lantana, the Old Key Lime House lost its tin roof. The restaurant's older section, constructed in 1889, remained mostly unscathed.[110] About 261 dwellings in the city were impacted and 4 others were destroyed.[73] Additionally, a church lost its steeple and the Solid Waste Authority transfer station suffered extensive roof damage.[72] In Hypoluxo, most of a mobile homes at a trailer park were damaged, 12 of which were condemned.[93] Overall, 204 residences were affected by Wilma.[73] In South Palm Beach, high-rise condominiums experienced extensive damage.[72] Throughout the town, 429 dwellings were impacted.[73] In Manalapan, about 166 residences experienced structural losses.[73] The town hall and public safety buildings in Ocean Ridge suffered severe damaged.[93] The storm inflicted damage on a total of 364 homes in the town.[73] In Briny Breezes, two Quonset huts, the clubhouse, the auditorium, and 495 mobile homes – approximately 80% – were damaged.[93] Throughout the city, Wilma left approximately $100 million in damage.[91]

In Boynton Beach, several schools received damage, mainly limited to downed trees, fences, and signs, as well as missing roof tiles and broken windows, though a few schools were damaged more severely.[85] Fallen utility poles blocked the entrance to a gated community and one fell onto Interstate 95.[72] A number of businesses and residences were effected, with 896 homes damaged and 56 destroyed.[73] The roof of a Sam's Club crumpled and landed at Interstate 95 and Hypoluxo Road.[72] Three deaths occurred in Boynton Beach, one from a falling sliding glass door, another due to a collision at an intersection with the traffic lights out of service, and the third from a boy touching a downed power line.[53] A total of 58 homes were damaged in Gulf Stream.[73] The storm left approximately $1.5 million in damage in Gulf Stream, with $1 million to private property and business and $500,000 to the town's infrastructure. In Highland Beach, between 50 and 55 residential units had broken windows, while at least 40 suffered roof damage.[111] A total of 372 dwellings were impacted by the storm.[73] Damage was minor, reaching only $35,000, while clean-up and repair costs was estimated at $142,475.[70]

Snapped concrete electrical poles in Boca Raton

Strong winds also lashed Delray Beach. At the city hall, a 30-ton air-conditioning unit detached from the building, damaging the interior and portions of the roof. The doors to the ports at a local fire station were ripped off and subsequently replaced. A portion of the roof at Old School Square was lost, while minor ceiling damage occurred at several city parks. At the tennis center, trees, fences, and cabanas were knocked over.[112] Several trees and the modern romantic garden at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens were destroyed, while the museum and cafe complex suffered roof damage. Similar impacts occurred at the American Orchid Society Visitors Center and Botanical Garden, which was closed to the public for about one month.[102] Wilma effected 917 homes, 79 of which were completely wrecked.[73] The roof of a condominium was blown off and broke its pieces, which scattered across the property.[72] Overall, damage in Delray Beach was estimated at between $100 million and $150 million, with $8 million to public buildings.[83]

In Boca Raton, the Boca Raton Airport suffered extensive damage, including the collapse of two hangars, planes that had flipped over, and hangar doors which had blown in. The airport reported nearly $12 million in damage.[113] At a high school, two masonry block walls of the school's $8.6 million theater were ripped apart. An elementary school almost completely lost its roof.[114] Additionally, the gymnasium at Florida Atlantic University suffered severe roof damage.[115] The Boca Raton News suspended publication for almost a week due to damage and lack of electricity at its headquarters.[116] The West Boca Medical Center was structurally damaged and the steeple of a church collapsed.[72] Twenty-five businesses were destroyed, while several along Northwest Second Avenue sustained roof damage.[68] About 1,889 homes in the city suffered losses, while the demolition of 8 others occurred.[73] Damage in the city alone total approximately $60.8 million.[68]


Several trees were uprooted and low-land areas flooded in Palm City, Florida

Wind gusts up to 108 mph (174 km/h) in Hobe Sound resulted in widespread wind damage. Forty-eight residences were destroyed and 120 suffered significant damage, most of which were mobile homes. Over 90% of the county was left without electricity. The county's main hospital, Martin Memorial, sustained enough damage to be unable to receive new patients. Damage to agriculture reached about $48 million. In St. Lucie County, winds destroyed two mobile homes, severely damaged Tradition Field, and deroofed the county Civic Center. Otherwise, winds mainly downed trees and power lines. Losses to vegetation totaled $28 million.[117] Two deaths occurred in St. Lucie County, both in Fort Pierce. One was a man who collapsed during clean-up efforts and the other was a woman who was in a car accident caused by an out of service traffic light.[53]

Strong winds gusts up to 80 mph (130 km/h) in Okeechobee County impacted about 800 residences, with 29 of those destroyed and 114 others receiving major damage. Winds also overturned two airplanes, and destroyed three hangars and severely damaged two others at Okeechobee County Airport. About 50 covered boat slips were destroyed and 12 boats were damaged or sunk. In the city of Okeechobee, the water plant was shut down due to poor water quality in the lake. Two tornadoes touched down in the county, though neither damaged anything other than trees.[117]

The rainfall in Osceola County led to the flooding of twelve homes in St. Cloud and the destruction of one mobile home in Kissimmee, while winds inflicted minor damage to numerous dwelling and mobile homes, primarily to the awnings and porches. Wind gusts up to 55 mph (89 km/h) in Indian River County left minor damage to trees, power lines, roofs, and out buildings. The county EOC was damaged after a communication tower was blown down.[118] Agricultural losses to vegetables, citrus and sugar totaled about $20 million.[117] A tornado spawned 10 mi (16 km) east of Yeehaw Junction downed trees along State Road 60. In Volusia County, a roof and a home under construction were severely damaged in Daytona Beach Shores. Throughout the county, a few power lines and trees were downed.[118]

Flooding in Cocoa West

Wilma produced minor wind damage in Brevard County, with trees and power lines down and damage to roofs and out buildings. Some areas received as much as 10 to 13 in (250 to 330 mm) of rain, flooding about 200 homes in Cocoa. Total crop damage including citrus equals $3 million. Six tornadoes touched-down in the county. The first tornado, which effected Cocoa and Rockledge, destroyed a porch at a restaurant and damaged the roof of an apartment building. It also destroyed transformers along State Road 520 after crossing the Intracoastal Waterway. The next tornado was spawned near Melbourne Beach and removed the second floor of beachfront house. The third tornado damaged trees and power lines in Palm Bay. A fourth tornado in West Melbourne destroyed a large portion of an apartment roof, flipped-over a car and damaged two others. It also felled fences and trees.[117] The fifth tornado, spawned in Floridana Beach, destroyed a home along State Road A1A and littered the home's debris across that roadway. The sixth and final tornado damaged an apartment an apartment complex in Melbourne near the intersection of Route 192 and John Rodes Boulevard.[119]

Damage in Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Polk counties was minor, collectively totaling approximately $2.45 million. Between 4 and 8 in (100 and 200 mm) of rain in Charlotte County resulted in swollen ditches and inundated streets, including a portion of State Road 31. In Highlands County, up to 6 in (150 mm) of precipitation flooded parts of U.S. Route 98. A tornado that touched down along the shore of Lake Josephine destroyed a porch and a shed. Heavy rainfall ranging from 6 to 8 in (150 to 200 mm) in Polk County flooded a few homes in the city of Lake Wales. A tornado spawned in Mulberry destroyed a transformer and sent several people to a local shelter. Another tornado was reported in Hardee County near Zolfo Springs.[117] In Hillsborough County, a 66-year-old man died from a heart attack while uploading sandbags in preparation of the hurricane.[120]

Superficial impact occurred in Alachua, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Marion, Orange, Putnam, Seminole, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, and Wakulla counties, limited to light to heavy rainfall and power outages, which were restored by the following morning.[118][121] The outer bands of the storm produced 3 to 5 in (76 to 127 mm) of precipitation to Flagler and southern St. Johns counties. In the former, some flooding of roadways was reported.[117] One indirect death occurred in St. Johns County after a woman was killed in a car accident while evacuating.[122] Portions of the Florida Panhandle received large waves from Wilma prior to its landfall, with Alligator Point, Cape San Blas, Dog Island, and St. George Island experiencing minor beach erosion. The Cape St. George Light, built in 1852, suffered damage from many previous tropical cyclones, before Wilma finally toppled it into the Gulf of Mexico.[117]


On the same day as the passage of Hurricane Wilma, President of the United States George W. Bush issued a major disaster declaration for Brevard, Broward, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, and Saint Lucie counties, allowing residents to receive assistance.[123]

More than 20 days later, some residents and business owners remained without electric service. Cable television and internet services as well as cell phone services were unavailable for up to two months in some areas. Power outages in southeastern Florida, notably in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, compounded the difficulties South Floridians faced following Wilma. Any traffic lights still standing were not working, causing an increase in traffic problems. Gasoline was in high demand for cars and generators; six-hour waits were common, due to lack of power to pump the fuel. Much of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties were placed under a boil water order. Communication was also difficult—land lines were damaged, while cellular towers were either damaged, without power, or overloaded in capacity.

See also[edit]


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