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Hurricane Michael Recap: Historic Category 4 Florida Panhandle Landfall; Swath of Wind Damage and Flooding Into the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic
Published: October 13, 2018
Michael made landfall as a catastrophic, unprecedented Florida Panhandle Category 4 hurricane early during the afternoon of Oct. 10.
(MORE: Michael's Impacts, Aftermath)
Hurricane Michael intensified right up to its landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, around 12:30 p.m. CDT Oct. 10 as a high-end Category 4, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and a minimum central pressure of 919 millibars.
Michael was the third-most-intense continental U.S. landfall by pressure and fourth-strongest by maximum sustained winds on record. Michael was also the most-intense Florida Panhandle landfall on record, the first Category 4 hurricane to do so in records dating to the mid-19th century.
The National Hurricane Center's Storm Surge Unit estimated peak storm surge inundation of 9 to 14 feet above ground likely occurred from Mexico Beach through Apalachee Bay, a location notorious for storm surge even from less-intense tropical cyclones.
Michael's storm surge produced a peak inundation of 7.72 feet above ground level at Apalachicola, Florida, during the afternoon of Oct. 10, smashing the previous record of 6.43 feet above ground set during Hurricane Dennis in July 2005.
Peak inundation of 5.31 feet above ground at Panama City, Florida, was second only to Hurricane Opal in 1995. Cedar Key, Florida, saw peak inundation of just over 4 feet during the afternoon of Oct. 10.
An observing site near Tyndall Air Force Base, east of Panama City, measured a wind gust to 129 mph early on the afternoon of Oct. 10, and a gust to 107 mph was reported 1 mile south of Panama City.
At one time, it was estimated over 200 roads in the city of Tallahassee were blocked by fallen trees.
A weather reporting station deployed by Weatherflow and the University of Florida measured a surface pressure from 920 to 929 millibars, an extraordinarily low pressure to measure on U.S. soil, before it was toppled, according to Shea Gibson, WeatherFlow, Inc., meteorologist.
Michael also shattered Panama City's all-time low-pressure record, which had stood from Hurricane Kate in 1985.
Here are some other notable peak measured wind gusts over land by state:
- Florida: 129 mph at Tyndall AFB; 89 mph in Apalachicola; 71 mph in Tallahassee
- Alabama: 68 mph in Dothan
- Georgia: 115 mph in Donalsonville; 70 mph in Albany; 51 mph in Savannah
- South Carolina: 60 mph in Little River; 55 mph in North Myrtle Beach
- North Carolina: 68 mph at Oregon Inlet; 61 mph at Rocky Mount
- Virginia: 75 mph near Meadowville; 65 mph in Portsmouth; 56 mph in Richmond
- Maryland: 62 mph near Point Lookout
- Delaware: 62 mph at Lewes Beach
- New Jersey: 54 mph at Atlantic City (airport)
Wind gusts over 50 mph were clocked as far north as southern New Jersey, with reports of trees or power lines downed from the Florida Panhandle to the Washington D.C. metro area. Up to 1.6 million customers were without power at one time.
Ground saturated from previous heavy rain earlier in the fall and summer made it easier for trees to be toppled by Michael's winds.
Michael spread a swath of heavy rain from the Florida Panhandle to the mid-Atlantic and southeastern New England.
There were 204 reports of flash flooding in the 48-hour period ending 8 a.m. EDT Oct. 12, associated with Michael from Georgia to New Jersey. The majority of these were in Virginia (114 reports) and North Carolina (46 reports), where the heaviest of Michael's rain pounded areas already saturated from previous heavy rain events.
Major flash flooding occurred in Danville, Farmville, Richmond and Roanoke, among other locations in Virginia, prompting flash flood emergencies from the National Weather Service. Water rescues were performed in Danville, and water entered homes, businesses and government buildings in Farmville and Prince Edward County.
At least 20 roads were closed in Watauga County in the high country of northwestern North Carolina, including the town of Boone. Widespread flooding was also reported in Forsyth County, including Winston-Salem, and in parts of the Raleigh metro area.
At least 10 homes were flooded in Irmo, South Carolina, requiring some evacuations.
As Michael became a post-tropical cyclone on Oct. 12, heavy rain triggered some minor street flooding on Nantucket Island. Over 3 inches of rain was reported on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.
At least one location in seven different states reported at least 5 inches of rain from Michael. Here are some notable rainfall totals by state:
- Florida: 5.26 inches at Sumatra; 3.17 inches in Tallahassee; 2.61 inches in Panama City
- Alabama: 5.33 inches near Rehobeth; 4.92 inches in Dothan; 1.60 inches in Montgomery
- Georgia: 6.48 inches near Powder Springs; 3.37 inches in Macon
- South Carolina: 7.39 inches near Jefferson; 4.98 inches in Columbia; 4.75 inches in Greenville/Spartanburg
- North Carolina: 9.62 inches near Black Mountain; 6.75 inches near Boone; 2.95 inches in Asheville
- Virginia: 8.04 inches in Bowling Green; 5.40 inches in Farmville; 5.05 inches in Danville
- Maryland: 7.10 inches in Salisbury; 2.43 inches in Annapolis
- Delaware: 3.83 inches in Georgetown; 1.85 inches in Dover
- New Jersey: 3.03 inches in Millville; 2.58 inches in Atlantic City (airport)
- New York: 2.29 inches in Islip; 1.43 inches at JFK Airport
While the final tally of tornadoes is yet to be determined, Michael did spawn several tornadoes along its journey through the Southeast.
Three tornadoes were confirmed in Georgia, one of which snapped trees just southwest of downtown Atlanta on the evening of Oct. 10.
Another tornado was sighted in Lake Brooklyn, Florida, northeast of Gainesville, on Oct. 10.
The following day, damage in southern Virginia near Burkeville, Jamaica, Achilles, Lanexa, Mannboro and Danville was suspected to be from tornadoes, as was damage near Reidsville, North Carolina.
Michael first developed as Tropical Depression Fourteen on Oct. 7 east of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
Michael rapidly intensified from a tropical depression to Category 1 hurricane in just 24 hours ending 11 a.m. EDT Oct. 8.
Michael continued to intensify right up to landfall, exhibiting eyewall lightning as it pushed to high-end Category 4 status slamming ashore in the Florida Panhandle.
Michael arrived in southwestern Georgia early on the evening of Oct. 10 as a Category 3 major hurricane, the first hurricane of that strength to track into Georgia since the Georgia Hurricane of 1898, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University.
In total, Michael spent five days as a tropical cyclone.
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