Hurricane Wilma was the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, as well as the most intense recorded in the western hemisphere until Hurricane Patricia in 2015. Part of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which included three of the top ten most intense Atlantic hurricanes ever (along with #4 Rita and #7 Katrina), Wilma was the twenty-second storm, thirteenth hurricane, sixth major hurricane, fourth Category 5 hurricane, and second-most destructive hurricane of the 2005 season. A tropical depression formed in the Caribbean Sea near Jamaica on October 15, headed westward, and two days later intensified into a tropical storm which turned abruptly southward and was named Wilma. Wilma continued to strengthen, and eventually became a hurricane on October 18. Shortly thereafter, explosive intensification occurred, and in only 24 hours, Wilma became a Category 5 hurricane with wind speeds of 185 miles per hour (298 km/h).
Wilma's intensity slowly leveled off after becoming a Category 5 hurricane, and winds had decreased to 150 miles per hour (240 km/h) before it reached the Yucatán Peninsula on October 20 and 21. After crossing the Yucatán, Wilma emerged into the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane. As Wilma began accelerating to the northeast, gradual re-intensification occurred, and the hurricane was upgraded to Category 3 on October 24. Shortly thereafter, Wilma made landfall in Cape Romano, Florida with winds of 120 miles per hour (190 km/h). As Wilma was crossing Florida, it briefly weakened back to a Category 2 hurricane, but again re-intensified as it reached the Atlantic Ocean. The hurricane intensified into a Category 3 hurricane for the last time but dropped below that intensity while accelerating northeastward. By October 26, Wilma transitioned into an extratropical cyclone southeast of Nova Scotia.
Wilma made several landfalls, with the most destructive effects felt in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, Cuba, and the U.S. state of Florida. At least 62 deaths were reported, and damage total estimated at $29.4 billion (equivalent to $36.1 billion in 2017), with in the United States $21 billion ($25.8 billion in 2017). As a result, Wilma is ranked as the sixth costliest hurricane in United States history. Wilma was the most recent major hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous United States until Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southern Texas on August 26, 2017, ending a record length of time – slightly over 11 years and 10 months – without any major hurricanes making landfall in the United States. Wilma was also the last hurricane to strike the state of Florida until Hurricane Hermine did so nearly 11 years later in 2016, another record. Wilma was also the last major hurricane to make landfall in Florida until Hurricane Irma made landfall in early September 2017.