The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Hurricane Wilma experienced the most rapid strengthening ever recorded in a hurricane Wednesday.
At 2 p.m., the center of Hurricane Wilma was about 500 miles south-southwest of Key West and was packing winds of 165 miles-per-hour. Forecasters warn Floridians to closely monitor the progress of the storm which they call ``extremely dangerous.''
Developments Wednesday related to Hurricane Wilma:
Free shuttle bus service is available for Lower Keys residents who want to evacuate. Evacuees can take a bus provided by the Key West Department of Transportation to Florida City and continue on with Miami-Dade public transportation to hotels or to the Florida International University shelter in Miami. The bus registration telephone number is (305) 292-8160.
Collier County Emergency Management is advising mobile home residents to review disaster preparedness and evacuation plans. Authorities say mobile homes are unsafe shelters during major hurricanes, and residents in areas subject to storm surge flooding and utility disruption should consider evacuating.
Delta Airlines has canceled flights to some cities that may be affected by Hurricane Wilma. The company says customers booked on certain flights to South Florida and some cities in Mexico can adjust their scheduled travel by October 31st without penalty.
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine says it will send 118 South Florida students home because of Hurricane Wilma. All other students will attend classes as usual throughout the week. The school's homecoming activities on Friday and Saturday will also continue as scheduled.
At the Sarasota Jungle Gardens zoological park, animal keepers are prepared to move hundreds of parrots, snakes, monkeys and reptiles into an indoor cement block facility, if the hurricane heads in the zoo's direction. The move would take a day and a half, and would start with the caged parrots and end with the monkeys and flamingoes.
The Humane Society urges pet owners evacuating from the storm's path to take their pets with them. Since many evacuation shelters don't accept pets, a spokesperson says evacuees should seek out accommodations that allow pets during emergency situations, and carry the animals' identification and medications with them.