Wilma hits Florida coast as category 3 Storm

Wilma crashed ashore in southern Florida on Monday and roared across the Everglades toward the densely populated Miami area after slamming Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and leaving 17 people dead across the Caribbean.

Once the most intense hurricane on record in the Atlantic, Wilma weakened after hammering Cancun and Cozumel for three days with punishing winds and rains, destroying homes and ruining luxury hotels but revved up as it raced toward Florida, its top sustained winds strengthening to 125 mph (200 kph).

Wilma's powerful core struck the Florida mainland around Cape Romano, near the city of Naples. The sprawling storm, about 400 miles across, covered much of the peninsula and hit as a Category 3 on the five-stage scale of hurricane intensity, capable of causing significant damage, informs Reuters.

"I looked out our place and I saw a bunch of stuff flying by," said Paul Tucchinio, who was riding out the storm in a condo three blocks from the beach in Naples. "It sounds like someone threw a bunch of rocks against the boards. It's wicked."

More than 22,600 people were in shelters across the state. But in the low-lying Florida Keys, not even 10 percent of the Keys' 78,000 residents evacuated, Sheriff Richard Roth said.

Key West was experiencing sustained winds of 60 mph with gusts of 76 mph.

Key West Police Chief Bill Mauldin said the city had severe flooding just before dawn, "more extensive than we've seen in the past." But he wouldn't know until daybreak the full extent of any damage.

At 7 a.m., Wilma was about 10 miles north of Everglades City and moving northeast at about 23 mph, reports the AP.

the AP