Hurricane Michael threatens Florida with 150mph winds

Christopher Davidson
October 11, 2018

Jonathan Bachman / Reuters A message has been written on a closed business as Hurricane Michael approaches Panama City Beach, Florida, on October 10.

The storm's intensity waned steadily as it pushed inland and curled northeasterly into Georgia.

A water-level station in Apalachicola, close to where Michael came ashore, reported a surge of almost 8 feet (2.5 meters).

Unlike Florence, Michael is moving along and will continue to move rather quickly through the southeastern United States and then offshore by Friday.

The storm came ashore as a category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale, before it was downgraded to a category 3.

The winds were so strong they brought down a billboard in Florida's Panama City, tore down a Texaco gas pumping station canopy in Inlet Beach, and the storm surge completely knocked a house of its foundations in Mexico Beach. The storm was moving northeast at 20 miles per hour with 75 miles per hour maximum sustained winds, just above the minimum speed to be considered a hurricane.

Ken Graham, director of the Miami-based National Hurricane Center, said Michael is "unfortunately, a historical and incredibly unsafe and life-threatening situation".

"Hurricane Michael is an unprecedented event and can not be compared to any of our previous events".

Images captured by Associated Press journalists show how Florida residents took shelter while waters were rising ahead of Michael's landfall.

Bill Manning, a 63-year-old grocery clerk, fled his camper van in Panama City for safer quarters in a hotel only to see the electricity there go out.

The dire verdict is due in part to the extremely rapid strengthening of the storm, from Category 2 in the morning.

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In addition, this storm had the third-lowest central air pressure of any USA landfalling hurricane on record.

Only two other storms in recorded American weather history - that is, since 1851 - had stronger winds. Its sustained winds were just 2 miles per hour (3.2 kph) shy of an extremely rare Category 5.

For insurance-linked security (ILS) and catastrophe bond interests though, this initial estimate perhaps will give some comfort that the impacts to the sector will not be particularly significant, compared to a similarly severe storm impacting an area of Florida with higher levels of property density and exposure.

According to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Michael's eyewall was strengthening as it maintained maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour.

The latest minimum central pressure based on data from Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft has dropped to 928 millibars, meaning the eye of the storm remains intact and well-defined.

Officials reported at least one storm-related fatality.

Michael is likely to dump heavy rain over Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

The areas from Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island and between the Alabama-Florida border and the Okaloosa-Walton county line could see 2 feet to 4 feet of storm surge.

After landfall as a Category 4 storm, Michael will march northeast through the southeast US and remain at least a Category 1 storm well into Georgia.

Tropical storm warnings and watches are in effect all along the Southeast coast as far north as the Outer Banks, per TWC.

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