Michael made landfall as a catastrophic, unprecedented Florida Panhandle Category 4 hurricane early during the afternoon of Oct. 10.
Hurricane Michael intensified right up to its landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, around 12:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday as a high-end Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and a minimum central pressure of 919 millibars.
Michael was the third most intense continental U.S. landfall by pressure and fourth strongest by maximum sustained winds on record. Michael was also the most intense Florida Panhandle landfall on record, the first Category 4 hurricane to do so in records dating to the mid-19th century.
Linda Marquardt rode out Hurricane Michael with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach. When their house filled with surging ocean water, they fled upstairs. Now their home is full of mud and everywhere they look theres utter devastation in their Florida Panhandle community: fishing boats tossed like toys, roofs lifted off of buildings and pine trees snapped like matchsticks in 155 mph winds.
The National Hurricane Center's Storm Surge Unit, estimated peak storm surge inundation of 9 to 14 feet above ground likely occurred from Mexico Beach through Apalachee Bay, a location notorious for storm surge even from less intense tropical cyclones.
Video: AP Top Stories October 12 A
Michael's storm surge produced a peak inundation of 7.72 feet above ground level at Apalachicola, Florida, Wednesday afternoon, smashing the previous record of 6.43 feet above ground set during Hurricane Dennis in July 2005.
Michael brings dangerous winds, flooding in U.S. Mid-Atlantic: NHC
Peak inundation of 5.31 feet above ground at Panama City, Florida, was second only to Hurricane Opal in 1995. Cedar Key, Florida, saw peak inundation of just over 4 feet Wednesday afternoon.
An observing site near Tyndall Air Force Base, east of Panama City, measured a wind gust to 129 mph early Wednesday afternoon, and a gust to 107 mph was reported 1 mile south of Panama City.
Video: It was terrifying: Florida residents describe impact of Hurricane Michael
At one time, it was estimated over 200 roads in the city of Tallahassee were blocked by fallen trees.
A weather reporting station deployed by Weatherflow and the University of Florida measured a surface pressure from 920-929 millibars, an extraordinarily low pressure to measure on U.S. soil, before it was toppled, according to Shea Gibson, WeatherFlow, Inc. meteorologist.
The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricanes landfall, mostly from coastal homes. Nine people had to be rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of a home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.
Michael also shattered Panama City's all-time low pressure record, which had stood from Hurricane Kate in 1985.
Video: Georgia begins damage tally after Michaels hit
– Florida: 129 mph at Tyndall AFB; 89 mph in Apalachicola; 71 mph in Tallahassee- Alabama: 68 mph in Dothan- Georgia: 115 mph in Donalsonville; 70 mph in Albany- South Carolina: 55 mph in Myrtle Beach; 52 mph near Charleston
Winds gusted to 50-55 mph, at times, in Augusta, Georgia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Thursday morning. There have been a number of reports of trees and power lines downed in eastern Georgia and South Carolina, including in the Columbia metro area.
Below is a before-and-after comparison showing a few of the spots that have suffered catastrophic damage.
Rainfall from Michael has now topped 6 inches in a few locations, but has been held down somewhat, primarily due to Michael's more rapid forward movement compared to Florence. Here are some notable rainfall totals by state:
Michael kills six and wipes out Florida beach town
– Florida: 5.26 inches at Sumatra; 3.17 inches in Tallahassee; 2.61 inches in Panama City- Alabama: 5.54 inches in Ozark; 4.92 inches in Dothan; 1.60 inches in Montgomery- Georgia: 6.48 inches near Powder Springs; 3.37 inches in Macon- South Carolina: 6.01 inches near Hartsville; 4.47 inches in Columbia- North Carolina: 9.62 inches near Black Mountain; 6.75 inches near Boone; 2.95 inches in Asheville- Virginia: 5.75 inches near White Gate; 1.40 inches in Blacksburg
Flooding was also reported on Interstate 26 and the Interstate 126 interchange on the northwest side of Columbia early Thursday morning. Ten homes were flooded in Irmo, South Carolina, requiring some evacuations.
In North Carolina, a swift water rescue was needed due to flooding near Old Fort, and significant street flooding was reported in Hendersonville and Boone.
Michael first developed as Tropical Depression Fourteen on Oct. 7 east of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
Michael rapidly intensified from a tropical depression to Category 1 hurricane in just 24 hours ending 11 a.m. EDT Oct. 8.
Michael continued to intensify right up to landfall, exhibiting eyewall lightning as it pushed to high-end Category 4 status slamming ashore in the Florida Panhandle.
Michael arrived in southwestern Georgia early Wednesday evening as a Category 3 major hurricane, the first hurricane of that strength to track into Georgia since the Georgia Hurricane of 1898, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University.
Hurricane Michael exploded in intensity this week, from a rather nondescript tropical depression Sunday with winds of 35 mph to a Category 4 monster Wednesday with 155 winds.
When it hit land, it became the most powerful hurricane on record to slam Floridas Panhandle and the third-strongest U.S. landfall of all time.
Along with other weather factors, Michaels rapid intensification was fueled in part by unusually warm sea water in the Gulf of Mexico. Warm water of at least 80 degrees fuels hurricanes, and the water in the eastern Gulf this week was as much as 4 to 5 degrees warmer than normal.
Although random weather patterns certainly played a role, the warm waters in the Gulf have a human fingerprint of climate change, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate and hurricane expert Jim Kossin.
Penn State University climatologist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress that “once again we see a storm undergoing extreme rapid intensification over unusually warm ocean waters. We saw this pattern last year with Harvey and earlier this year with Florence and now, with my namesake, Michael.
Weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue said “theres no doubt the ocean water encountered by Michael was quite warm compared to the last three decades, especially near the coast.”
Maue analyzed early October water temperatures in the eastern Gulf and found that when comparing data from 1985-2005 to data from 2006-2018, the average temperature rose nearly 1 degree.
He said the cause of the rise is still a research puzzle and that “more detailed climate analysis is needed to better understand what has happened over the past 12 years across the Gulf of Mexico.”
Six dead as Hurricane Michael plows through the Carolinas
Several recent scientific studies say that hurricanes are intensifying more rapidly than they used to. One study this year in Geophysical Research Letters said that since 1986, the rate of intensification of storms like Michael has increased by about 13 mph.
A 2015 study on how ocean temperatures affect hurricane intensity in the North Atlantic found intensification increases by 16 percent for every 1.8 degree increase in average sea-surface temperatures, ThinkProgress reported.
Regardless of the cause, Michael saw our worst fears realized, of rapid intensification just before landfall on a part of a coastline that has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said.