As tropical storm force winds begin to make their way onto southwestern Florida shores this morning, Hurricane Michael sets its eye on the Florida Panhandle. Last night the storm was upgraded to a Category 2 hurricane and it probably won’t stop there. 35 counties in Florida are in a state of emergency as Michael, whose center is currently sitting about 395 miles south of Panama City, FL, is expected to make landfall just after noon on Wednesday.
As of 8am EDT this morning, Hurricane Michael is a Category 2 storm with a central low pressure of 968mb and max sustained winds of 100 mph. Michael experienced a cycle of rapid intensification last night, bringing central pressure down 10mb and winds up 20 mph within 12 hours. Some dry air entrainment and shear is most likely the cause of this current pause in intensification, however, it is not expected to last long.
Hurricane #Michael, seen here by #GOESEast, is strengthening as it moves over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. The center of the Cat. 2 storm is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday. Latest: https://t.co/ZrHnIiaJs1 pic.twitter.com/8oMdOx2YVv
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) October 9, 2018
Satellite imagery of the storm shows all 200 miles of its power. Convective banding outside of the wall is becoming more organized as Michael continues to move northwestward at 12 mph. As predicted, this storm is following flow provided by the high pressure center that has dominated aloft in the Southeastern US for the last week. This high pressure will steer Michael right into the Florida Panhandle by Wednesday afternoon.
Before making landfall, Michael is expected to undergo yet another round of rapid intensification. Guidance indicates a decrease in shear later today. While this storm has made a great deal of organization and intensification while battling moderate shear, this process is only expected to be amplified with even lower amounts of shear.
Dangers with this storm are not to be taken lightly. Before the center makes landfall Wednesday, heavy rain will most likely be seen by most of Florida. As the storm gets closer, the danger only increases. Brought to the shore by the hurricane’s counter-clockwise winds, areas within the Big Bend, just south of Tallahassee, are expected to get over 9 ft of flooding from the storm surge. Coupled with flooding from heavy rains of 5-10 inches and higher local amounts possible, the flooding in these areas has the potential to be life threatening. Flash flooding watches and warnings have been issued throughout Florida, as well as Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. As if flooding isn’t enough, winds are forecasted to increase to 115 mph early tomorrow morning, and then increase again to 120 mph just before landfall tomorrow afternoon.
These factors will create many hazards for Florida’s inhabitants. Roads will flood, making travel near impossible. Debris from loose structures and trees will be thrown around at high speeds, causing deadly conditions outside during the storm and making lasting impacts to many buildings’ structural integrity. Millions across the Southeast are expected to lose power as a combination of wind and rain make their mark on the area. People in this area are strongly advised to heed local warnings as the storm gets closer to shore.
Hurricane Michael will continue to follow flow northwestward, even after landfall. Along the way, Michael is expected to drop even more rain on areas in North and South Carolina that have already ben devastated from Florence. Some areas are still inundated with water, as this next storm makes its plans to pass through less than a month after Florence. Preparations are being made in both South and North Carolina to handle flooding from excessive rainfall.
As this storm continues north, it will eventually be caught up in westerly flow of the jet stream, possibly bringing heavy rains to the Northeast later this week. Before it moves offshore, areas as north as NYC and Boston can expect to feel the effects of the then-extratropical remnants of Michael. While winds are supposed to decrease and the storm will weaken as it heads onshore, heavy rains will still accompany what will remain of the storm. Despite initial weakening, Michael’s remains are expected to reorganize as it becomes post tropical. This could bring stronger sustained winds of closer to 60 mph to parts of the Northeast, as well as potential flooding in many areas.
WeatherOptics will continue to track Hurricane Michael through all stages and bring you updates as they come. As Hurricane Michael sets its eye on Florida, be sure to make the necessary precautions and heed any local warnings and orders. Continue to check for any changes in Michael’s track or intensity, and as always, stay safe.