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Wilma drenches Mexico, eyes Florida

Resorts endure daylong hurricane; Tropical Storm Alpha forms




11 p.m. ET Saturday

Location of storm eye: 50 miles (85 km) north of Cancun, Mexico and 375 miles (605 km) west-southwest of Key West, Florida

Top sustained winds: 100 mph

Latitude: 21.8 north

86.9 west

Movement: Drifting northward

Source: National Hurricane Center


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CANCUN, Mexico (CNN) -- Hurricane Wilma continued to pound Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Saturday night, as it edged toward the Yucatan Channel and the Gulf of Mexico en route to Florida.

Wilma's center at 11 p.m. ET was 50 miles (85 km) north of Cancun, Mexico, and 375 miles (605 km) west-southwest of Key West, Florida.

Wilma's winds remained at 100 mph. The northeastern Bahamas was under a hurricane watch.

More than 35,000 people, mostly tourists, were holed up in their hotels and shelters in Cancun, Mexico, for a second day.

"We've had more than 25 hours of continuous ... hurricane winds," said Felix Gonzalez Canto, governor of Quintana Roo state. He reported two deaths in Playa del Carmen and "a lot of destruction" in Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and Cancun.

No deaths have been reported in Cancun or in Cozumel, both in Quintana Roo, Gonzalez Canto said.

It's expected to reach Florida on Monday morning as a strong Category 2 or possibly a Category 3, said Max Mayfield, director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm will move quickly across the state and weaken, he said. (Latest on Florida)

The center defines storms of Category 3 strength -- with winds between 111 mph and 130 mph -- as "major" hurricanes.

Of most concern are the Florida Keys and Florida's southwest coast, which will see significant rainfall, said Richard Knabb, a hurricane center meteorologist.

Up to a foot of rain is possible in parts of Florida, although most areas can expect four to 8 inches, Knabb said. A storm surge of 10 to 13 feet is forecast for parts of Florida's southwest coast.

Tropical Storm Alpha

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Alpha, just south of Puerto Rico, became the 22nd named storm Saturday, marking 2005 the busiest hurricane season on record.

Tropical Storm Alpha marks the first time the list of storm names has been exhausted, necessitating the use of the Greek alphabet.

At 11 p.m. ET, the storm was gaining strength on its approach to Hispaniola. It was about 55 miles (90 km) south-southwest of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Maximum sustained winds had increased to about 50 mph, and Alpha was moving at 14 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

While not considered a threat to the United States, the storm is likely to deliver heavy rain, potential flooding and mudslides over the island of Hispaniola, which comprises Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm would then move over the Turks and Caicos Islands on a northeastern course before dissipating in the Atlantic.

South Florida prepares

Florida officials said they expect Wilma's interaction with an approaching cold front to spawn an unusually high number of tornadoes.

The Florida Keys, Florida's southwest coast from Longboat Key southward, and Florida's east coast from Titusville southward, were under a hurricane watch Saturday evening. (Watch Naples prepare -- 1:16)

In southeastern Florida, the outer bands of Wilma flooded the streets of Oakland Park, in Broward County near Fort Lauderdale. Video showed people standing in about a foot of water, as cars tried to navigate the flooded streets. (Watch Florida's hurricane fatigue -- 2:05)

Tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph are expected to start impacting the Florida Keys by sunset Sunday, said Monroe County Emergency Operations manager Billy Wagner.

A phased mandatory evacuation for residents is already under way, Wagner said. Tourists were ordered out on Wednesday.

Police teams went door to door on Sanibel and Captiva islands, which were also under mandatory evacuation orders.

Seven shelters with a total 14,000-person capacity and a special-needs shelter for 300 people have been opened, said Booch Demarchi, spokesman for Lee County's emergency operations center. (Watch FEMA get ready -- 2:00)

The county, which includes Sanibel and Captiva, have added extra buses and drivers to take people lacking transportation to the shelters, Demarchi said.

"We all witnessed that in (Hurricane) Katrina, people said 'I would have gone to a shelter, I just couldn't get there.' So, having that fresh in our mind, that necessitated extra buses, extra drivers and extra routes for people who otherwise couldn't get to a shelter," he told CNN.

Just south, some areas of Collier and Lee Counties are still rebuilding after having been battered by Hurricane Charley last year.

Commissioners of Collier County -- which includes Naples, Marco Island and Everglades City -- imposed a curfew on all areas under mandatory evacuation orders.

In Lee County, residents of barrier islands and mobile homes also were ordered to leave. (Watch Punta Gorda prepare, again -- 3:00)

Cuban evacuations

Although it is not expected to take a direct hit from Wilma, Cuba has been evacuating some 500,000 residents from the western part of the island since Wednesday. By Saturday, more than 300,000 had been moved. (See video on Cuba's preparedness -- 2:09 )

Parts of western Cuba could receive 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) of rain, and some areas could get 40 inches (1 meter) forecasters said.

The provinces of La Habana and Pinar del Rio were under a hurricane warning, and the Isle of Youth was under a tropical storm warning Saturday night. Matanzas province was under a hurricane watch.

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Jeanne Meserve, Allan Chernoff, Dave Hennen and Lucia Newman contributed to this report.

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