2018’s Hurricane Michael upgraded to Category 5, strongest storm to hit US in 26 years

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have concluded a detailed post-storm analysis of Hurricane Michael and determined the storm’s estimated intensity at landfall was 160 MPH. This five-mile-per-hour increase in wind speeds now makes Michael an official Category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale when it made landfall on October 10, 2018, near Mexico Beach, Florida.

Michael is now the first category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and only the fourth category 5 hurricane on record. Michael is also the strongest hurricane landfall on record in the Florida Panhandle and only the second known category 5 landfall on the northern Gulf cost.

Other Category 5 Hurricanes:
1992 – Andrew
1969 – Camile
1935 – Labor Day

The previous wind speed estimate was 155 miles per hour. The new intensity estimate was determined from a review of aircraft winds, surface winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates, and Doppler radar data, most of which were not available in real-time as the storm landed.

The pressure is also used as a measurement is storm intensity and in general, the lower a storm’s central pressure, the higher the wind speeds. Michael sustained a central pressure of 919 millibars at landfall, which is the third lowest on record for a landfalling United States hurricane since records began in 1900.  The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 had a central pressure of 892 millibars while Hurricane Camile had a central pressure of 900 millibars.

Though category 5 winds were likely experienced in a very small area, wind speeds are of little significance in terms of the associated impacts with the storms.

The storm was responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the United States.

Meteorologist Andrew Stutzke

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