National Hurricane Center Upgrades Michael to 5 at Landfall

Michael is the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States as a category 5 since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and only the fourth on record.

The massive destruction caused by Hurricane Michael when it came ashore near Mexico Beach, Fla., on Oct. 10, 2018, is easier to comprehend, now that the National Hurricane Center's detailed analysis has resulted in an upgrade of the storm's ferocity. Scientists at NOAA's NHC determined that the storm's estimated intensity at landfall was 140 knots (160 mph), a 5 mph increase over the operational estimate, which makes Michael a category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale at the time of landfall.

Michael is the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States 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 and only the second known category 5 landfall on the northern Gulf coast.

The final best track intensity estimate of 140 knots 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. The agency reported April 19 that Category 5 winds "were likely experienced over a very small area at and near the coast, and the change in estimated wind speeds is of little practical significance in terms of the impacts associated with the storm. Michael produced devastating winds and storm surge and was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the United States. Before hitting the United States, the cyclone brought hurricane-force winds to the western tip of Cuba when it was a category 2 Hurricane."

Atmospheric pressure also is a measure of storm intensity -- the lower a storm's central pressure, the higher the winds. Michael's central pressure of 919 millibars 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).

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