Hurricane Michael has intensified to a Category 4 storm since yesterday, and may not stop there. Millions live in the path of this monster storm and it’s expected to leave impacts all the way up to the Northeast by the end of the week. It seems as if the entire eastern half of the country is holding its breath as we anticipate landfall.

Today, we’ll be doing a special edition of your Morning Briefing focused on major Hurricane Michael. We will discuss it’s forecasted path and intensity, as well as dangers it may bring to the Southeast as it makes landfall and possible impacts for the Northeast as it travels up the coast.

Michael’s Projected Progression:

  1. Hurricane Michael is currently a category 4 storm with sustained winds of 145 mph and a central pressure of 933 mb. Due to warm gulf waters and low amounts of shear, Michael is expected to continue to intensify before its eye reaches Florida’s coast.
  2. After making expected landfall near Panama City, FL early this afternoon, Michael is expected to begin to weaken initially, while continuing northeastward across the Southeastern US.
  3. About 24 hours after landfall, Michael is expected to begin to become extra-tropical over land. During this process, the storm will reintensify and bring more widespread damage before going back out to sea off the VA coast early Friday.

As of 8 am EDT, Hurricane Michael is a category 4 major hurricane currently moving northward at 13 mph with max sustained winds of 145 mph and a central pressure of 933 mb. As we saw yesterday, shear around Michael has decreased significantly since first becoming a disturbance in the Gulf. Coupled with warm October sea surface temperatures, this is what has allowed the storm to intensify so rapidly. These factors are also what will allow Michael to continue to intensify before it reaches the Florida coast later today. Michael is not expected to weaken until after making landfall, which would make it the most powerful hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle in recorded history. After coming onshore near Panama City, FL early this afternoon, Michael is expected to continue its path northeastward, up the eastern coast of the US. It will cross over the southeastern US and will likely re-intensify as it becomes extra-tropical. This will bring tropical storm-like conditions all the way up to North Carolina and Virginia, including areas that have already been ravaged by Florence earlier this month. While expected to move back out to sea near Virginia Beach, effects will be felt all the way up the eastern seaboard by the time Michael finally moves offshore at the end of this week.

Southeast Effects and Dangers – Today and Tomorrow:

  1. Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall near Panama City, Florida early this afternoon. With max sustained winds at 145 mph, catastrophic damage can be expected, especially near the eye of this monster storm. Hurricane-force winds are expected to extend from southeast Alabama all the way across the Florida Panhandle and up into southern Georgia today, well into the afternoon, as Michael begins to weaken.
  2. Storm surge is expected to be life-threatening along areas within the Big Bend, FL Panhandle, and Nature Coast. Surges of 9-13 feet will be observed in many areas of the Big Bend. Along with drenching rains, flooding will be a major concern today and tomorrow for much of the Southeast.
  3. Tornado and severe weather warnings are in effect over northern Florida, Georgia, and southern South Carolina today. Areas of enhanced convection mixed with strong low-level shear set up a favorable environment for tornadoes. Winds within these tornadoes can be extremely high and destructive, often shearing off the tops of trees and compromising the structural integrity of buildings and homes.
  4. As we move into tomorrow, Michael will slow down, but not enough. As this storm becomes extratropical and reintensifies, high winds and flooding will continue to plague most of the Southeast, especially areas where the center of Michael will pass over, such as Central Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

The Southeast is lit up today with watches and warnings in preparation for Hurricane Michael as it makes landfall early this afternoon. As a category 4, this could be the strongest storm ever recorded to hit the area. Dangers with this storm will be widespread; alerts for tropical storm-force winds span from Mississippi to Georgia as sustained winds of 145 mph have already been observed in the storm and are only expected to get stronger. With such strong winds comes extraordinary damage to property. At these speeds, debris from fall trees and broken structures can be shot through the air at high speeds. Winds will be greatest along the eye wall. Michael’s eye has a radius of 21 miles, meaning catastrophic damage in places where that eye wall passes through. Areas of enhanced convection have the ability to spawn tornadoes, causing enhanced damage and stronger winds locally. With these strong winds also comes the risk of a stronger storm surge. Areas in the Big Bend can expect 9-13 ft of surge in addition to drenching rainfall. Flooding presents a huge risk to life and property as homes along the coast can be literally swept away. Roads will be completely impassable, and electricity is expected to be out for millions. Evacuations are in place along the Florida coastline, encouraging people to move further inland. As Michael makes its way across the Southeastern US, damage is expected to widespread, despite any weakening that will occur after landfall. Flooding and hurricane-force winds are expected throughout today across Alabama to Georgia, and tropical storm-force winds tomorrow across Georgia to South Carolina. The worst of these conditions will follow the low pressure center of Michael, even as it becomes extratropical tomorrow and into Friday.

Northeast Effects and Dangers – Friday:

  1. Heavy rainfall and flooding is expected throughout the Northeast on Friday. Tropical moisture from Michael will continue to follow this low pressure system northward until the storm finally heads offshore near VA.
  2. As the remaining tropical energy clashes with a cold front associated with a surface low up in Canada, this rain will be intensified throughout the NE and drench many parts of VA, MD, and DE.
  3. Heavy rains will reach as far north as ME, with totals of 1-2 inches expected across the region by the time the system finishes passing by Friday afternoon. Flash flooding is certainly possible in many areas as heavy rains have already drenched most of the Northeast in the past few weeks.

After Hurricane Michael makes expected landfall later today, it is expected to weaken, but not for long. After about 24 hours, Michael will begin to become extratropical, reintensifying as another strong storm. At this renewed strength, the storm will have the potential to bring tropical storm-force winds and heavy rain up the eastern coast. While the remnants of Michael’s core will only reach as far north as Virginia, its effects will be felt all the way up to Maine. As Michael reaches the Northeast on Friday, it will clash with a cold front associated with a surface low from Canada. Tropical moisture brought north by Michael will drench most of the Northeast, causing flooding and flash flooding threats, especially in North Carolina and Virginia. Flooding is still possible across the Northeast, with locally stronger rainfall along the boundary of the cold front, which will provide much lift behind these storms on Friday. At least an inch can be expected throughout New England, NY, and PA. NJ and DE will see higher amounts of up to 2 inches in some areas, with rainfall totals increasing as we move to the south, closer to the actual path of Michael.

Be sure to keep it locked in to WeatherOptics as we provide live updates and coverage throughout the day as Michael makes landfall and tracks inland.


Kathleen is a Meteorologist at WeatherOptics, where she works writing content for the website, providing accurate and detailed forecasts to clients, and consulting on various meteorological projects. Kathleen earned her B.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences in 2018 from Stony Brook University. Kathleen has also done research into our changing climate by investigating theRole of Atmospheric Rivers on Arctic Amplification in 2017.

Comments are closed.