UPDATE: Wilma Gains Hurricane Status; U.S. Gulf Keeps Watch

Gaining a better defined center, Tropical Storm Wilma strengthened into a hurricane Tuesday on a path that could pose a threat to Florida by the weekend. At 11 a.m. EDT, Wilma had top sustained winds of near 75 mph.

Long-range forecasts indicate Wilma could impact western Cuba or the Yucatan Peninsula before heading into the Gulf of Mexico by Friday. The storm may also spare those countries while traveling through the Yucatan Channel.

Computer models indicate southwestern Florida could be a target by Saturday. New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas are also keeping an eye on the storm.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin indicated on Monday that residents may need to evacuate once officials have a better idea of where the storm is headed later in the week.

So far in 2005 there have been 21 named storms, tying a record set in 1933. If there is another tropical storm, it would be named Alpha, for the first letter in the Greek alphabet. Hurricane season runs until Nov. 30.

Editor’s note: See related story in International news.