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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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At one time, it was estimated over 200 roads in the city of Tallahassee were blocked by fallen trees.
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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.
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Michael also shattered Panama City's all-time low pressure record, which had stood from Hurricane Kate in 1985.
– 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.
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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:
– 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.
Forecasters said Michael was still a potent tropical storm Thursday evening, centered about 5 miles (8 kilometers) northwest of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and packing top sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). It was racing to the northeast at 24 mph (39 kph) amid warnings it could spread damaging winds and more flash flooding in the region before moving offshore.
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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.
In Panama City, most homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Roofs had been peeled off. Aluminum siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees. Hundreds of cars had broken windows. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet (7 meters) high.
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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.
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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.
CNNs Brooke Baldwin struggled to find the words to describe the devastation left by Hurricane Michael as she flew in a helicopter above Mexico Beach, Fla., on Thursday morning.
Its gone. Its gone, Baldwin said before her cameraman panned to long rows of leveled homes below. Its — its obliterated.
The small beachfront community, located about 40 miles south of Panama City, Fla., was where the Category 4 storm made landfall on Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just 2 mph below the threshold of Category 5. It was the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the third strongest ever to strike the U.S. mainland.
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Good god. This footage from @BrookeBCNN. Mexico Beach, Florida is “gone” after Michael. pic.twitter.com/Fj3l6SYeFZ
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At least two people died in the storm, and federal officials fear the death toll could rise as search and rescue crews begin to assess the damage.
Roads to Mexico Beach were virtually impassable, so Baldwin, who spent the night in nearby Destin, Fla., chartered a chopper to get the view from above. Fires could be seen burning in the distance, homes shredded and boats strewn across the town of about 1,100 people.
Its just awful to look at, Baldwin told viewers before her feed cut out. It was bad in Panama City Beach, but Ive never seen anything like this … I have no words.
A Tampa Bay Times reporter and a photojournalist who managed to make it to Mexico Beach on the ground early Thursday described what they saw:
Homes completely destroyed. Refrigerators and toilets where the storm left them. Thousands of two-by-fours, chewed up and indecipherable. Refrigerators, toilets, staircases to nowhere and front doors 10 feet up with no way down. The neighborhoods along U.S. 98 looked like a childs playroom after a massive tantrum.
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More than 180,000 people along the Florida Panhandle were under mandatory evacuation orders. And while many heeded those orders, some did not.
At least four survivors were discovered by the Tampa Bay Times reporters, including a woman and a man who were looking for help with their mothers portable oxygen machine.
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