PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – When Hurricane Michael made landfall October 10, 2018 near Panama City, it was considered a strong Category 4 storm. Yet six months later, after re-evaluating the damage caused by wind and water, the National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm’s devastating power to Category 5 status.

Sixteen people lost their lives as a result of Hurricane Michael, and the storm caused a staggering $25 billion in damage. It was the worst storm to ever strike that part of Florida.

Residents of the Tampa Bay area can learn a lot from what happened to our neighbors in the Panhandle. We learned that storms can intensify rapidly. Michael started out as a weak tropical system in the western Caribbean, just off the Yucatan. By October 7, it was a tropical depression. The very next day, Michael became a hurricane, and it took only two more days to intensify into a major hurricane.

We also learned that a hurricane can cause injuries and damage hundreds of miles away from the area of landfall. Ten people in states outside of Florida died as a result of the storm, and Michael cut a path of destruction across parts of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. 

Hurricane hunters knew this storm was going to be serious as they flew in and around the storm just before it made landfall.

“Hurricane Michael was a doozy of a storm,” according to Ian Sears, NOAA Flight Director. “It was rapidly intensifying during the time that we were out there. The pressure was falling, Winds were increasing. Most hurricanes most hurricanes really are not that turbulent. This one we got bounced around quite a bit.”