Gathering strength at a fierce pace, Hurricane Wilma swirled into the most intense Atlantic storm ever recorded Wednesday, a Category 5 monster packing 175 mph wind that forecasters warned was "extremely dangerous."
Wilma was dumping rain on Central America and Mexico. A hurricane watch was in effect for the east coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, parts of Cuba and the Cayman Islands, and forecasters warned of a "significant threat" to Florida by the weekend.
"All interests in the Florida Keys and the Florida peninsula should closely monitor the progress of extremely dangerous Hurricane Wilma," the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
Wilma's top sustained winds reached 175 mph early Wednesday in the most rapid strengthening ever recorded in a hurricane, said meteorologist Hugh Cobb of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. At the same time Tuesday, Wilma was only a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph.