Hurricane Michael – the third-most intense storm ever to strike the American mainland – slammed into the gulf coast of Florida on Wednesday, packing maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour and a ridiculously low central pressure of 919 millibars.
For those of you unhip to your hurricane history, only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane (which struck the Florida Keys) and 1969’s Hurricane Camille (which made landfall in Mississippi) had lower central pressure upon landfall.
Meanwhile only three storms – Camille, the Labor Day hurricane and 1992’s Hurricane Andrew (which hit South Florida and Louisiana) – roared ashore with higher winds than Michael.
Wind speed is typically viewed as the best predictor of a storm’s destructive potential, but studies have shown central pressure is actually a better indicator of the extent of damage a storm system is likely to cause.
“The minimum central pressure is a better predictor of historical hurricane economic damages in the United States than maximum wind speed,” a 2017 report concluded.
Michael’s menacing eye (below) made landfall just northwest of Mexico Beach, Florida shortly before 1:00 p.m. CDT. As it pummeled the Florida panhandle it destroyed thousands of homes and businesses and left hundreds of thousands of residents in Florida and Georgia without power.
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As of 8:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday, power was out for 100 percent of residents in Calhoun and Jackson counties and 97 percent of residents in Bay and Franklin counties.
At least two people are confirmed dead in the aftermath of the storm, a number expected to climb in the days to come.
Interstate 10 – a major east-west thoroughfare – was shut down for eighty miles in both directions due to debris from the storm.
Meteorologist Marc Weinberg captured some of the structural damage caused by the storm …
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Florida governor Rick Scott urged Panhandle residents to “stay off the roads” as the state began its “aggressive” search, rescue and recovery efforts.
“Hurricane Michael cannot break Florida,” Scott said.
In South Carolina, Michael moved through the Midlands region of the state on Thursday morning as a tropical storm – with maximum sustained winds of fifty miles per hour. The system caused flash flooding and isolated tornados.
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