Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Michael 2018-10-10 1840Z.jpg
Hurricane Michael at peak intensity making landfall on the Florida Panhandle on October 10
FormedOctober 7, 2018
DissipatedOctober 16, 2018
(Extratropical after October 12)
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 155 mph (250 km/h)
Lowest pressure919 mbar (hPa); 27.14 inHg
Fatalities34 total
Damage> $8.1 billion (2018 USD)
Areas affectedCentral America, Yucatán Peninsula, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Southeastern United States (especially the Florida Panhandle), East Coast of the United States, Atlantic Canada, Iberian Peninsula
Part of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Michael was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the United States in terms of pressure, behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille of 1969. It was also the strongest in terms of maximum sustained wind speed to strike the contiguous United States since Andrew in 1992. In addition, it was the strongest on record in the Florida Panhandle, and was the fourth-strongest landfalling hurricane in the contiguous United States, in terms of wind speed.

The thirteenth named storm, seventh hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, Michael originated from a broad low-pressure area that formed in the southwestern Caribbean Sea on October 2. The disturbance became a tropical depression on October 7, after nearly a week of slow development. By the next day, Michael had intensified into a hurricane near the western tip of Cuba as it moved northward. Strengthening continued in the Gulf of Mexico, reaching major hurricane status on October 9, peaking at a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson scale. Approaching the Florida Panhandle, Michael attained peak winds of 155 mph (250 km/h) as it made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, on October 10, becoming the first to do so in the region as a Category 4 hurricane, and making landfall as the strongest storm of the season. As it moved inland, the storm weakened and began to take a northeastward trajectory toward Chesapeake Bay, weakening to a tropical storm over Georgia, and transitioning into an extratropical cyclone off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic states on October 12.

By October 10, at least 34 deaths had been attributed to the storm, including 19 in the United States and 15 in Central America. Insurance losses due to Michael in the United States are estimated to be at least $8 billion (2018 USD).[1] As a tropical depression, the storm caused extensive flooding in Central America in concert with a second disturbance over the eastern Pacific Ocean. In Cuba, the hurricane's winds left over 200,000 people without power as the storm passed to the island's west. Along the Florida panhandle, the cities of Mexico Beach and Panama City suffered the worst of Michael, with catastrophic damage reported due to the extreme winds and storm surge. Numerous homes were flattened and trees felled over a wide swath of the panhandle. A maximum wind gust of 129 mph (208 km/h) was measured at Tyndall Air Force Base near the point of landfall. As Michael tracked across the Southeastern United States, strong winds caused extensive power outages across the region.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

Early on October 2, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) began monitoring a broad area of low pressure that had developed over the southwestern Caribbean Sea.[2] While strong upper-level winds initially inhibited development, the disturbance gradually became better organized as it drifted generally northward and then eastward toward the Yucatán Peninsula. By October 6, the disturbance had developed well-organized deep convection, although it still lacked a well-defined circulation. The storm was also posing an immediate land threat to the Yucatán Peninsula and Cuba. Thus, the NHC initiated advisories on Potential Tropical Cyclone Fourteen at 21:00 UTC that day.[3][4] By the morning of October 7, radar data from Belize found a closed center of circulation, while satellite estimates indicated a sufficiently organized convective pattern to classify the system as a tropical depression.[5] The newly-formed tropical cyclone then quickly strengthened into Tropical Storm Michael at 16:55 UTC that day.[6] The nascent system meandered before the center relocated closer to the center of deep convection, as reported by reconnaissance aircraft that was investigating the storm.[7] Despite moderate vertical wind shear, Michael proceeded to strengthen quickly, becoming a high-end tropical storm early on October 8, as the storm's cloud pattern became better organized.[8] Continued intensification occurred, and Michael attained hurricane status later on the same day.[9]

The eye of Hurricane Michael seen from the International Space Station on October 10

Shortly afterwards, rapid intensification began to ensue and very deep bursts of convection were noted within the eyewall of the growing hurricane, as it passed through the Yucatán Channel into the Gulf of Mexico late on October 8, clipping the western end of Cuba. Meanwhile, a 35 nmi (65 km) wide eye was noted to be forming.[10] The intensification process accelerated on October 9, with Michael becoming a major hurricane at 21:00 UTC that day.[11] In addition, the central pressure in the eye was noted to have dropped about 20 mb (0.59 inHg) in the span of 6 hours, into the first hours of October 10.[12] Rapid intensification continued throughout the day as a well-defined eye appeared, culminating with Michael achieving its peak intensity at 18:00 UTC that day as a high-end Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (250 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 919 mbar (27.14 inHg), just below Category 5 intensity, as it made landfall on the Gulf Coast of the United States near Mexico Beach, Florida, ranking by pressure as the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States.[13]

Once inland, Michael began to rapidly weaken, as it moved over the inner Southeastern United States, with the eye dissipating from satellite view, weakening to a tropical storm roughly twelve hours after it made landfall.[14] Moving into the Carolinas early on October 11, the inner core collapsed as rainfall became prominent to the north of the center. Later that day, Michael began to show signs of becoming an extratropical cyclone, as it accelerated east-northeastward toward the Mid-Atlantic coastline, with cooler air beginning to wrap into the elongating circulation, due to an encroaching frontal zone.[15] Afterward, during the early hours of October 12, Michael began to restrengthen while moving off the coast, due to baroclinic forcing. Shortly afterward, Michael completed its extratropical transition around 09:00 UTC on the same day, as the storm became fully embedded within the frontal zone.[16]

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