Hurricane Michael: Recapping development of devastating Cat. 5 storm


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle 365 days ago as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 160 mph, and even higher gusts.

Just four days prior to landfall, there wasn’t even a developed storm.

Formation began on Oct. 7, just three days before landfall. A tropical depression formed in the southwestern Caribbean Sea.

Shortly after getting a little better organized, Michael began a rapid intensification cycle that continued all the way through landfall.

The depression strengthened into a Category 1 storm just one day after forming. The storm began moving in a general northward direction toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Once it passed Cuba, just two days after forming, Michael strengthened into a major hurricane in the Gulf on Oct. 9.

Thereafter, the rapid intensification continued. Not even a day later, a Category 5 storm slammed into the coast just south of Panama City Beach.

Michael moved inland fast, allowing it to weaken slower than normal. Michael brought hurricane-force winds well into Georgia through the night on Oct. 10.

The storm continued into the Carolinas and through southeastern Virginia before moving back out into the Atlantic.

Michael’s worst devastation came into the Florida Panhandle. Sustained winds were 160 mph in the eyewall.

Maximum storm surge heights were 9 to 14 ft above ground level along a portion of the Florida Panhandle coast from just southeast of Tyndall Air Force Base to Port St. Joe in Bay and Gulf Counties. The highest amounts were in Mexico Beach.

Due to Michael’s fast forward motion, flooding wasn’t of the biggest concern for the panhandle but 2 to 4 inches were recorded in some spots.

Michael resulted in 16 direct deaths and $25 billion in damage in the United States.

This hurricane was one of only four in recorded history to make landfall in the United States as a Category 5 and was the latest date of those four.


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