Post-storm analysis shows Hurricane Michael a Cat 5 at landfall

Hurricane Michael makes landfall at Mexico Beach, Fla. at 130 p.m. on Oct 10th. [NOAA image]

A post-storm analysis by scientists at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center has determined Hurricane Michael’s estimated intensity at landfall was 160 mph, making the storm only the fourth category 5 hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States.

Michael made landfall Oct. 10, near Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and headed north, killing seven people in Florida, three in North Carolina and five in Virginia.

Along the Outer Banks, storm surge flooding left damage soundside on Hatteras Island and in Manteo, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills. Water levels were 2 to 4 feet above ground level sound side north of Avon, the National Weather Service reported.

A car flooded in Manteo after Michael. [NWS photo]
In Virginia, Michael brought flooding rain, high winds and spawned seven tornadoes. The storm left 600,000 across the state without power.

The new analysis makes Michael the first hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. as a category 5 since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and only the fourth on record. The others are the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Michael is also the strongest hurricane landfall on record in the Florida Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center reports.

“The real-time operational intensity estimate was 135 knots (155 mph),” the analysis said. “The final best track intensity estimate of 140 knots (160 mph) was determined by a review of the available aircraft winds, surface winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates and Doppler radar velocities – including data and analyses that were not available in real time.”

Along with wind speed, atmospheric pressure is a measure of storm intensity. In general, the lower a storm’s central pressure, the higher the winds. Michael’s central pressure of 919 millibars (mb) at landfall is the third lowest on record for a landfalling U. S. hurricane since reliable records began in 1900, trailing only the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 (892 mb) and Hurricane Camille of 1969 (900 mb), the hurricane center said.

In all, Michael was responsible for 16 direct deaths, 43 indirect deaths and more than $25 billion in property damage. Along with Florence, Michael had been retired as an Atlantic basin hurricane name.

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