Hurricane Michael became the most intense hurricane on record to strike the Florida Panhandle Wednesday, and among the most intense hurricanes to hit the U.S. The storm is far from over. Dangerous conditions from damaging winds and flooding rain are forecast to spread through Georgia and into the Carolinas Wednesday night and Thursday. The storm made landfall early Wednesday afternoon in Mexico Beach, Fla., about 20 miles southeast of Panama City, as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane. [Hurricane Michael news updates] At landfall, the storm’s 155 mph peak winds ranked fourth highest on record for a hurricane hitting the continental U.S. and the pressure ranked third lowest (the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm), below even Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Katrina in 2005. As the storm crashed ashore, winds gusted as high as 130 mph from Panama City to Mexico Beach. The storm surge inundated Apalachicola in over seven feet of ocean water, a new record. Now the concern is Georgia and locations to the northeast through the eastern Mid-Atlantic. Storm updates 5:50 p.m.: As rain exits Panama City and Mexico Beach, the extent of the devastation begins to emerge Radar shows the bulk of the rain has now moved north of the region between Panama City and Port St. Joe, which bore the brunt of Michael Wednesday afternoon. “We have seen several building collapses in Panama City,” tweeted Marc Weinberg, a meteorologist at the scene. “The tree damage is incredible.” Incoming photos are beginning to show the severity of the damage: 5:05 p.m.: Eye of Michael exiting Florida, still a Category 3 as it enters Georgia More than three hours after making landfall, Michael is still packing sustained winds to 125 mph as it nears the Florida/Alabama/Georgia border. It continues to unleash violent gusts as it heads northeast at 16 mph. In the last hour, Tallahassee gusted to 69 mph and a gust to 74 mph was recorded closer to the coast. “Although steady weakening is expected as Michael moves over the southeast U.S. through Thursday morning, hurricane-force winds will continue to penetrate inland over the Florida Panhandle, southeastern Alabama, and southwestern Georgia through this evening,” the Hurricane Center said.
Michael will be a category 3 hurricane in Georgia. Making it only the 4th major hurricane in their history. And the other 3 were all in the 1800s.
And it passed over Florida first. https://t.co/21r9IkKoqA— Sam Lillo (@splillo) October 10, 2018
Along the coast, the Hurricane Center said “water levels are beginning to recede in some locations” but it warned storm surge would continue to be a hazard. 4:30 p.m.: Remarkable NOAA satellite imagery shows lightning generated by Michael 4:05 p.m.: Storm remains potent as it heads toward southwest Georgia Even as Michael moves farther inland, its continues to pack maximum sustained winds of up to 140 mph and has a well-defined eye. At 4 p.m., radar showed the eye of the storm about to pass over Interstate 10 in Florida’s Panhandle. It was centered about 55 miles west northwest of Tallahassee.
Michael’s satellite presentation over land is remarkable. Destructive winds are likely to extend well inland as the core remains in tact. pic.twitter.com/xTRYWzUBrt— Taylor Trogdon (@TTrogdon) October 10, 2018
Torrential rains and powerful winds extend well west and north of the center, expanding over southeast Alabama and into southwest Georgia. In the coming hours, conditions will begin to deteriorate over central and eastern Georgia. Over the past hour, the Hurricane Center compiled the following wind gust reports – mostly in the 60 to 100 mph range:
Marianna Florida airport: 102 mph University of Florida/Weatherflow Mexico Beach: 83 mph Panama City Beach National Ocean Service: 80 mph Tallahassee International Airport: 71 mph Donalsonville Georgia: 67 mph Downtown Tallahassee: 63 mph
3:35 p.m.: Photos and videos reveal more severe damage from wind and storm surge This footage from Mexico Beach, where Michael made landfall, is unbelievable. Homes are engulfed in ocean water, roofs have been sheared off and streets are rivers: 3:05 p.m.: Storm still producing wind gusts over 100 mph as eye moves inland Michael is slowly weakening as it comes further ashore (maximum sustained winds have fallen to 150 mph) but the storm is still generating destructive winds. The Hurricane Center logged the following gusts over the last hour:
Tyndall Air Force Base: 119 mph Florida State University Panama City Campus: 116 mph University of Florida/Weatherflow Mexico Beach: 104 mph Panama City Treatment Plant: 94 mph Panama City Beach National Ocean Service: 78 mph
It warned residents not to be fooled by the lull in winds when the eye passed over inland portions of Bay and Calhoun counties in Florida’s Panhandle. “[H]azardous winds will increase very quickly as the eye passes!,” it said. The number of power outages in Florida was 270,000 and rising. 2:45 p.m.: Water level sets record in Apalachicola As Michael’s winds pushed waters from the Gulf of Mexico into the coast, the observed water level in Apalachicola hit 7.63 feet, surpassing the previous record of 6.43 feet in July 2005. This means there was more than 7 feet of inundation above ground level.
Video from the region shows the storm surge waters flooding roads: 2:20 p.m.: ‘Unbelievable damage’ reported in Panama City and nearby The 130 mph winds which hit this region have taken a severe toll based on initial photos and video coming in:
HURRICANE DESTRUCTION: Hurricane Michael is tearing through Panama City Beach, Florida. Ripping away roofs, flooding condos and throwing debris everywhere. pic.twitter.com/7tuHkPGIvI— ABC 13 News – WSET (@ABC13News) October 10, 2018
This is a scene from Mexico Beach: Here is some video which illustrate how violent the winds were: 2:15 p.m.: Extreme wind warning expanded inland over Florida Panhandle The eye of Hurricane Michael has charged inland just to the east of Panama City. Even though the most extreme winds, with gusts up to 130 mph or so, were expected at the coast, destructive winds will spread over nearby inland areas and remain a threat for several more hours. An extreme wind warning is in effect for not only the zone from Panama City to Port Saint Joe along the coast but also in areas to the north and northwest:
An extreme wind warning is in effect Panama City FL, Lynn Haven FL, Callaway FL until 3:15 PM CDT for winds in excess of 130 mph. Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to an interior room or shelter. #HurricaneMichael pic.twitter.com/varLTSyGnB— NWS Tallahassee (@NWSTallahassee) October 10, 2018
For more details on this kind of extreme alert, see this related story: Rare ‘extreme wind warning’ posted for Hurricane Michael. Here’s what that means. 1:45 p.m.: Michael makes landfall in Mexico Beach, Fla., near Panama City, with 155 mph winds The National Hurricane Center said Michael made landfall in Mexico Beach, Fla. with sustained winds of 155 mph, just 2 mph shy of Category 5 – around 1:30 p.m. The Hurricane Center said a wind gust of 130 mph was observed at Tyndall Air Force Base and a gust of 129 mph hit Panama City. Hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach tweeted only three storms have hit the continental U.S. with stronger winds: the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 (185 mph winds), Camille in 1969 (175 mph winds) and Andrew in 1992 (165 mph winds). Michael also became the strongest landfalling U.S. hurricane during the month of October.
Hurricane Michael makes landfall in Mexico Beach, Fla. around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. (NOAA)
1:25 p.m.: Waters rising and winds gusting to nearly 130 mph as landfall is underway Tyndall Air Force Base, near where Michael is currently coming ashore, recently posted a wind gust of 129 mph. Meanwhile, the storm surge in Apalachicola had reached around 7 feet, passing the previous record of 6.4 feet. Here’s a view of the wind and water in Panama City taken Wednesday morning, showing a house under construction collapsing: 1:05 p.m.: Michael’s pressure is lower than Hurricane Andrew’s and third lowest on record in U.S. The 1 p.m. report from the National Hurricane Center indicated Michael’s pressure had fallen to 919 millibars. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. This pressure – if unchanged at landfall – would be lower than Hurricane Andrew when it struck South Florida and Katrina when it struck southeast Louisiana. “Only two continental US hurricanes have made landfall with a lower pressure,” tweeted hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach – the 1935 Labor Day hurricane (892 millibars) and Camille in 1969 (900 millibars).
Hurricane Michael about to make landfall at 1 p.m. Wednesday. (NOAA)
Based on its peak wind speed of 150 mph, it is the second strongest storm on record so far north, only trailing Camille, Klotzbach added. At 1 p.m., the storm’s center was just 15 miles west-southwest of Mexico Beach and 20 miles south of Panama City, meaning landfall is likely in the next hour or so. 12:50 p.m.: Wind gusts topping 100 mph as eyewall begins to come ashore The eyewall, the most intense part of Hurricane Michael surrounding its calm eye, is coming ashore just to the east of Panama Beach. Two reports of wind gusts over 100 mph have coming in: a gust to 106 mph in Port St. Joe and 116 mph in Mexico Beach. 12:25 p.m.: Rare “extreme wind warning” issued for zone from Panama City to Apalachicola The National Weather Service has issued its most severe wind alert for coastal areas in parts of Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend. The “extreme wind warning” calls for destructive winds in excess of 130 mph as Michael’s eyewall roars ashore. “This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation,” the Weather Service said. Apalachicola recently clocked a wind gust to 87 mph and winds are expected to keep increasing through mid-afternoon. The Weather Service advised those in the path of these winds to treat them like a tornado and to shelter in safe room. For more details on this kind of extreme alert, see this related story: Rare ‘extreme wind warning’ posted for Hurricane Michael. Here’s what that means. 12:05 p.m.: Weather Service director – ‘This is a worst case scenario’ Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service, called for residents of the Florida Panhandle to “stay inside & survive” in a tweet just before noon, warning that Hurricane Michael’s imminent landfall is a “worst case scenario.” The Hurricane Center’s noon advisory showed the storm just 40 miles southwest of Panama City. As the storm is moving north-northeast at 14 mph, landfall could occur within two to three hours. Winds and water levels continued increasing. Apalachicola recently recorded a gust to 76 mph. 11:45 a.m.: Michael is still strengthening: Winds up to 150 mph. At 11:30 a.m., the Hurricane Center sent out a special advisory indicating peak winds had increased to 150 mph, which is just 7 mph shy of Category 5. The storm’s pressure fell further, down to 923 millibars. (The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.) If this pressure holds, it will rank as the third lowest on record at landfall in the state of Florida and sixth lowest to strike the U.S. coast. Along the Florida Panhandle, winds continued to ramp up as gusts hit 72 mph in Apalachicola. 11:35 a.m.: Alarm bells raised for central and east Georgia Because Michael has become so strong so fast, the National Weather Service issued a special advisory for central and eastern Georgia warning of a “potentially historical tropical event.” It warned of hurricane-force winds and the potential for the downing of “hundreds to potentially thousands of trees.” It also said tornadoes were possible and rainfall of more than five inches, which could cause localized flash flooding. “With this being the tail end of Hurricane Season and with the long ordeal of Hurricane Florence for some, it can be easy to become complacent,” it cautioned. “This is not the storm to do that with!!” 11:10 a.m.: Core of Michael closing in on Florida Panhandle, life-threatening hazards ‘imminent’ In its 11 a.m. advisory, the Hurricane Center said life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall were “imminent” along the coast of the Florida Panhandle. The storm was centered just 60 miles south-southwest of Panama City and headed north-northeast at 15 mph meaning landfall could occur within a three to four hours. Winds were gusting over 60 mph at Bald Point, Fla., which is to the east of Apalachicola. Tallahassee, to the north, had clocked a gust to 46 mph. These winds will rapidly increase over the next few hours, reaching hurricane-force. The storm surge in Apalachicola had already reached 6 feet, close to its record height of 6.4 feet, and waters were continuing to rise. The storm’s pressure had fallen to 928 millibars, lower than Hurricane Irma when it crossed the Florida Keys. Assuming pressure don’t rise before landfall, Michael’s will rank among the top 10 lowest on record for a landfalling storm in the United States. 10:35 a.m.: Tropical storm conditions spread over Florida Panhandle as storm’s pressure tanks Tropical storm conditions swept over Florida’s Panhandle Wednesday morning and a wind gust of 58 was clocked at Apalachicola Regional Airport between 9 and 10 a.m. The Hurricane Center also reported water levels were rising quickly at the coast. Conditions over Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend area are predicted to rapidly deteriorate over the coming hours. At 10 a.m., the storm’s center was just 65 miles south-southwest of Panama city, meaning the eyewall – most dangerous part of the storm with the strongest winds – could hit the coast by midday. The storm’s pressure had fallen to 931 millibars which would rank among the lowest on record for a hurricane hitting Florida. As Michael rapidly intensified Tuesday night and early Wednesday, forecasters on Twitter described feelings of sickness and dread. “Hurricanes that intensify overnight just before reaching land are the worst nightmare of forecasters and emergency managers,” tweeted Weather Underground’s Bob Henson. Track forecast Predicted storm effects Both the Florida Panhandle, from Pensacola to Apalachicola, and the Big Bend area are forecast to be hardest hit. The storm surge was predicted to reach up to 14 feet potentially inundating more than 325 miles of coastline, including roads, homes and business. Population centers that could witness some of the most severe hurricane effects include Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City Beach and Apalachicola. “#Michael will make new history for central Panhandle, Big Bend,” tweeted Rick Knabb, the Weather Channel’s hurricane expert. “Some of you could get water and wind worse than ever before.” While the most severe hurricane conditions are expected along the coast, devastating hurricane effects are forecast to expand considerable distances inland. “A potentially catastrophic event is developing,” wrote the National Weather Service forecast office serving Tallahassee and surrounding areas. The office warned of “widespread power outages, downed trees blocking access to roads and endangering individuals, structural damage to homes and businesses, isolated flash flooding and the potential for a few tornadoes.” Damaging winds and flooding rain were also predicted to reach southern Georgia and southeast Alabama on Wednesday. By Wednesday night and Thursday, heavy rains from Michael are likely to streak into the Carolinas, perhaps bringing more flooding to some of the same areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence. Storm surge Waters are starting to recede but, through tonight, will remain elevated along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast. Here are specific storm surge projections from the Hurricane Center for locations in Florida:
Tyndall Air Force Base to Aucilla River: 5 to 10 feet Okaloosa-Walton county line to Tyndall Air Force Base: 3 to 5 feet Aucilla River to Chassahowitzka: 4 to 6 feet Chassahowitzka to Anclote River: 2 to 4 feet
Wind As Michael’s eyewall continues to collapse, the most severe winds will weaken, but potentially damaging winds will still impact the Florida Panhandle, southeastern Alabama, southwest and southwest Georgia. While hurricane-force winds of over 74 mph will be confined to a relatively small area, tropical-storm-force winds of 39 to 73 mph will occur over a much larger zone and could result in minor structural damage and many downed trees and power outages. A computer model run at the University of Michigan projects over one million customers will lose power, the majority in the Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia. Rain The Hurricane Center projects widespread rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches, from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend areas north into southeast Alabama and southwest and central Georgia, and isolated amounts of up to a foot. “This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods,” it said. Heavy rain could arrive in southern Alabama and southern Georgia early Wednesday. By Wednesday night and into Thursday, heavy rain will rapidly streak through Georgia and into the Carolinas.
Projected total rainfall from Hurricane Michael. (NOAA)
Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches is likely to affect some of the areas recovering from Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, which could lead to more flooding. Parts of eastern Georgia, southern Virginia, and the southern Delmarva Peninsula may also receive 3 to 6 inches, with isolated higher amounts. The rain is expected to reach the eastern Mid-Atlantic late Wednesday night into Thursday before rapidly exiting by Friday, where 1 to 3 inches is most likely, with locally higher amounts.