Hurricane Wilma

On October 24, 2005, Wilma was a Category III hurricane, by one mile-per-hour. However, the center of this tropical storm was some 75 miles away to the northwest. As a result, the impact upon Key West was as if it’d been a direct hit from a Category I hurricane.

The island was impacted by two different storm surges, at different times of the day; one on the leading edge of the storm and the second surge on the trailing side as it passed.

First Storm Surge

  • The first storm surge began on the eastern or Atlantic side at about 1 am. By 2:30 am, Key West International Airport was flooded, with the runway complex inundated and the airport terminal flooded with six inches of salt water.
  • At 3:01 am, Flagler Avenue east of First Street, was flooded with 1 to 2 feet of salt water. Parking lots on the southeast side of Key West were flooded with 2 to 3 feet of salt water. Some homes on the south side of Stock Island, as well as the intersection at U.S. Highway 1 and Cross Street, were flooded with up to 4 feet of water. At 3:30 am. EDT, a report was received indicating that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio transmitter on Sugarloaf Key had ceased operation (it was later discovered that the generator’s fuel tank had broken free and floated away).
  • By 5 am the surge seemed to have reached its crest and was beginning to recede. However, it wasn’t over.

Second Storm Surge

As storm surge flooding was receding on the Atlantic side, it was only beginning on the western or Gulf of Mexico side of the island; this was the surge from the trailing side of the storm. This second surge caused flood waters to rise until about 10 am This second surge coincided with high-tide, causing flood waters to rise high and remain longer than had it occurred earlier on the Atlantic side at low-tide.

The normal high-tide for that day was predicted to be two-feet above mean-sea-level; the surge pushed water levels to almost five feet.

The Old Town or downtown section of the city experienced one flood or the other; whereas the low-lying sections in the middle of the city (First St, Bertha St, Flagler Avenue) were inundated by surges from both directions.

Photo Gallery

View images from Hurricane Wilma.

Repetitive Loss

A property becomes designated as a Repetitive Loss property after flood damage has:

  • The community’s floodplain management ordinance must have a repetitive loss provision
  • The cost of repairing the flood-damage, on average, equaled or exceeded 25% of the property market value at the time of each flood
  • Occurred twice in the past 10 years
  • The two flood damage events must have resulted in flood insurance claim payments

Privacy Act of 1974

This doesn’t mean all buildings within these areas have suffered repetitive flood losses, but one or more have. The federal Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits the City from releasing flood claim histories for specific properties. The most the City may disclose is whether a specific property is or isn’t located in such an area.

Severe Repetitive Loss Building

This classification applies to buildings that are:

  1. Are covered under a Standard Flood Insurance Policy
  2. Has incurred flood damage for which:
    1. Four or more separate claim payments have been made under a Standard Flood Insurance Policy, with the amount of each such claim exceeding $5,000, and with the cumulative amount of such claims payments exceeding $20,000.
    2. At least two separate claims payments have been made under a Standard Flood Insurance Policy, with the cumulative amount of such claim payments exceeding the fair market value of the insured building on the day before each loss.