Floridians Still Wait for Wilma

10-23-05 - MIAMI (AP) The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Wilma has picked up a little strength as it hurtles toward Florida.

At 5 p-m Eastern time, Wilma was centered about 210 miles west-southwest of Key West, and is moving toward the northeast near 14 miles-an-hour.

Wilma's top sustained winds have reached 105 miles-an-hour; it's still a Category Two storm.

Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield says Wilma could reach near Category Three strength by the time it reaches Florida early tomorrow.

On the positive side, Mayfield says as far as Florida is concerned, Wilma is not expected to be a "very prolonged event."

Maxfield warns there could be storm surge flooding of nine to 17 feet above normal tide levels along the southwest Florida coast near where Wilma makes landfall.

With Hurricane Wilma approaching, Florida Governor Jeb Bush has written his brother, President Bush, asking that the state be granted a major disaster declaration for 14 counties.

The southern half of the state is under a hurricane warning, and an estimated 160-thousand residents have been told to evacuate.

Many people have refused to evacuate Key West. Many gathered on a concrete pier stretching about 200 yards into the water, watching massive waves crash over it. Some stood at the end and let the water cascade onto them, while kids splashed in the pooled water closer in.

Surfers took advantage of the early storm surge to get on their boards. One woman said she usually has to drive several hours to go surfing, but this time it was just around the corner.

Now that the worst of Hurricane Wilma is over in Mexico, people in Cancun are wandering flooded streets in search of food.

Military convoys have arrived with water, medical aid and other supplies.

Tens of thousands of people huddled for two days inside hot, leaky shelters, most of them tourists.

One tourist who's taking pictures of the damage asks, "Why notlook at this as an adventure and try to have some fun?"

Residents are trying to start cars that have been flooded and are trying to clean debris from their homes. Downtown Cancun is littered with glass, tree trunks and flooded vehicle.

Officials say at least three people have died from the hurricane in Mexico. One was hit by a falling tree. Two others were killed when a gas tank exploded.

Four badly decomposed bodies were found floating in flood waters on Cozumel, but officials say it's not clear if those deaths were related to the storm.