In just a matter of days, Hurricane Michael became the strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Camille in 1969. Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, around noon Wednesday with winds of 155 mph and storm surge as high as 14 feet in many spots.
On October 2, the National Hurricane Center began monitoring an area over the Caribbean Sea for potential development. Up until Oct. 6, the disturbance remained disorganized until moving into a more favorable environment as it tracked off to the northeast slowly around three mph. It strengthened into a tropical storm on Sunday afternoon and brought heavy rain, gusty winds and flash flooding to parts of Western Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula.
From there, Michael underwent rapid intensification as it moved into the the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Buoy data showed many areas of the gulf had waters around 85 degrees, a huge fuel source for storms to strengthen. By Monday, the storm was a Category 1 Hurricane, with the intensification well underway and accelerating by Tuesday as it became a major hurricane. By Wednesday, the storm had formed a well-defined eye as the storm was nearing peak intensity upon landfall. Most storms reach peak intensity prior to landfall and briefly weaken, however Michael still showed signs of intensification upon the last minutes of landfall.
LANDFALL AND IMPACTS:
Michael made landfall between Tyndall AFB and Mexico Beach, Florida, Wednesday afternoon as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane. Sustained wind speeds were as high as 155 mph with gusts as high as 175 mph, making it just 1 mph shy of a Category 5 hurricane. Storm surge impacts were felt from the Mississippi sound all the way down the coast of Florida. Smaller surges of 2-4 feet occurred from Mississippi to Alabama, with the greatest felt near the Big Bend of Florida where surges were up to 14 feet. It’s likely impacts will be felt for many months along the Florida Panhandle, as Michael is the strongest storm to hit the region since Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Current forecasts quickly track Michael out of Florida by late this evening as a Category 2 storm. It will maintain at least tropical storm strength through the Carolinas before tracking back out over the open Atlantic.
KEY FACTS & STATISTICS:
– Michael’s minimum central pressure upon landfall of 919 mb makes it the third-strongest hurricane to ever hit the US. Only Camille and the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida keys were stronger.
– It is the strongest storm since Hurricane Camille devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the strongest storm to hit the Florida Panhandle.
– Although sustained winds were only up to 155 mph and weaker than Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Michael was stronger than Andrew based off of central pressure measurements. Hurricane Michael was 919 mb upon landfall, where as Hurricane Andrew was 922 mb upon landfall. Of note, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was 920 mb upon landfall.
– The hurricane force winds extended outward up to 45 mph from the center of circulation.
– Prior to landfall several mesovortices (small areas of rotation within a thunderstorm) were occurring around the eyewall, indicating that Michael was still stregthening.
– It is the strongest storm of the 2018 Hurricane season and the strongest storm in the 21st century.
Here is a list of the top 10 strongest hurricanes to make landfall in the US since record keeping began.
Stay with ABC 17 News as we continue to track Hurricane Michael in the coming days, as impacts will be felt from the Gulf States to the Carolinas.