Advertisement
  1. Hurricane

Hurricane Michael retroactively upgraded to a Category 5 storm at landfall

A growing percentage of people in Mexico Beach and Panana City whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Michael are now seriously delinquency on their mortgages. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
A growing percentage of people in Mexico Beach and Panana City whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Michael are now seriously delinquency on their mortgages. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Apr. 19, 2019

More than six months since Hurricane Michael ripped through the Florida Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center has upgraded it to a Category 5 storm.

Forecasters now say, based on a post-storm analysis, that the hurricane packed 160 mph winds when it hit Oct. 10 around Tyndall Air Force Base near Mexico Beach.

DRIFTWOOD INN: In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, a family looks to rebuild in a ruined town

It's the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States as a Category 5 since Hurricane Andrew came ashore near Miami in 1992, according to the Hurricane Center.

Only two other storms in recorded history have struck the nation as Category 5s, forecasters said — the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969.

RELATED: Hurricane Michael recovery has a big problem: People aren't donating

"This confirms what we already knew," Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote in a tweet Friday. "Hurricane Michael was one of the most devastating storms in Florida and U.S. history."

The update is likely to mean little on the ground beyond confirming what residents had already accepted as fact — that the wind speeds were greater than recorded despite initial Hurricane Center estimates listing the hurricane as a peak Category 4 storm. Forecasters had said previously that Michael's winds reached about 155 mph at landfall; Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale begins at 157 mph.

"They could have called us months ago," said Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey. "We could have saved them some time."

Workers in his small city are still trying to clear out debris, especially from the canal they hope to have ready for the upcoming snapper season.

The Hurricane Center report explained that the Category 5 winds probably only touched a small section of the coast. The storm killed 16 people in the United States and caused $25 billion in damage.

However, Category 5 status does not automatically trigger more relief funds for devastated communities, said Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Cheria Brown.

"The category of the storm doesn't change the assistance that the Panhandle is going to get going forward from FEMA," she said.

Bay County officials used the Hurricane Center findings Friday to call on Congress to fund a disaster aid package post-Michael — a proposal that has been held up over relief for Puerto Rico, which was decimated two years ago by Hurricane Maria.

"The federal government has historically provided major disaster funding," said Bay County Commissioner Robert Carroll in a statement. "We anticipate and expect the same treatment, and we need them to step up and provide some funding and some relief."

Leaders in Bay County estimate they sustained hundreds of millions of dollars in damage from the storm.

"There are abandoned houses everywhere," Carroll said, and families are sharing space with friends or relatives wherever homes are still livable. "There isn't a week that goes by I don't have at least one of my daughters' friends staying at our house."

The full Hurricane Center report includes other details, pulled from multiple sources, which offer insight into the havoc surrounding the storm:

  • The worst damage happened in Bay County, specifically Tyndall Air Force Base and Mexico Beach, where 1,584 of the town's 1,692 buildings were damaged. The report shows that 809 buildings there were totally destroyed. Countywide, the Hurricane Center said, 45,000 structures were damaged in Bay and 4,185 in neighboring Gulf. Even areas further inland sustained major losses, including 400 destroyed buildings in Jackson County.
  • Seven people died in Florida, directly because of the hurricane, according to the Hurricane Center. Five drowned — three in Mexico Beach, one near Port St. Joe, and one closer to Panama City. Two others died under fallen trees in Quincy and Alford. At least another 43 people died with some connection to the storm — during clean-up, in car crashes or from medical problems worsened by the disaster.
  • Storm surge inundation peaked in Mexico Beach, between 9 and 14 feet. Waves worsened the destruction.
  • Florida sustained $18.4 billion in damage.
  • Forecast tracks were accurate, but the storm's intensity defied expectations that wind shear would prevent the hurricane from becoming so strong. Over seven days, the Hurricane Center's website received 85 million page views.

The worst damage happened in Bay County, specifically Tyndall Air Force Base and Mexico Beach, where 1,584 of the town's 1,692 buildings were damaged. The report shows that 809 buildings there were totally destroyed. Countywide, the Hurricane Center said, 45,000 structures were damaged in Bay and 4,185 in neighboring Gulf. Even areas further inland sustained major losses, including 400 destroyed buildings in Jackson County.

Seven people died in Florida, directly because of the hurricane, according to the Hurricane Center. Five drowned — three in Mexico Beach, one near Port St. Joe, and one closer to Panama City. Two others died under fallen trees in Quincy and Alford. At least another 43 people died with some connection to the storm — during clean-up, in car crashes or from medical problems worsened by the disaster.

Storm surge inundation peaked in Mexico Beach, between 9 and 14 feet. Waves worsened the destruction.

Florida sustained $18.4 billion in damage.

Forecast tracks were accurate, but the storm's intensity defied expectations that wind shear would prevent the hurricane from becoming so strong. Over seven days, the Hurricane Center's website received 85 million page views.

Contact Zachary T. Sampson at zsampson@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.

• • •

MORE WEATHER

EXTENDED FORECAST: The 10-day outlook for the Tampa Bay area

DOWNLOAD: Get the tbo Weather App and see where storms are headed

LIVE RADAR: Interactive storm track, hourly outlooks, 10-day forecasts and weather alerts

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Flooding from an October king tide in Miami Shores fills streets, sidewalks and driveways at its peak. [Miami Herald]
    And it could lose up to 35 percent of its value by 2050, according to a new report.
  2. From left, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos speak at a summit held by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council's Resiliency Coalition on Tuesday at the Hilton Carillon Park in St. Petersburg. [LANGSTON TAYLOR]
    The first Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition Leadership Summit kicked off Tuesday. Local officials were there, and so was Florida’s new Chief Resilience Officer.
  3. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) aboard NOAA's GOES East captured this view of Hurricane Dorian overnight on Sept. 4, 2019. The GLM continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere, both on land and nearby ocean regions and can detect all three major lightning types: in-cloud, cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning. Alongside radar and other weather satellite data, lightning information helps forecasters understand when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous. [NOAA]
    The first space-based lightning tracker “has the most potential for forecasting rapid intensification.”
  4. Ridge Road in Pasco County currently ends at Moon Lake Road. The county wants to extend it 8 miles to link to the Suncoast Parkway and then to U.S. 41 in Land O' Lakes. [Tampa Bay Times]
    The federal government has finally blessed the long-awaited corridor. But environmental groups vow to keep fighting.
  5. Denis Phillips, chief meteorologist for ABC Action news (WFTS-Ch. 28 ), center, serves cookies to Griffin Frank, of Tampa, right, while hosting a fundraiser for the Children's Miracle Network with hot chocolate, popcorn, Doubletree Chocolate Chip cookies and even a few homemade Rule #7 Wine glasses, on Saturday, December 14, 2019, at his home in Palm Harbor. At left is Denis' wife, Robyn Phillips, and at right is his son, Josh Phillips, 16. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The Tampa Bay meteorologist loves Christmas. His neighborhood’s light display raises money for charity each year.
  6. Hurricane Dorian left homes in ruin in the Bahamas. [FERNANDO LLANO  |  AP]
    The season’s strongest storm, Hurricane Dorian, had Florida in sight but turned north before making landfall. The storm decimated the Bahamas.
  7. The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm moving toward the northeast out to sea. [National Hurricane Center]
    An early morning advisory shows the storm turning toward the northeast.
  8. Tropical storm Sebastien has developed in the Atlantic and now has an 80 percent chance of turning into a tropical cyclone. [National Hurricane Center] [National Hurricane Center]
    Forecasters with the National Weather Service do not expect the storm to threaten land.
  9. Forecasters with the National Weather Service estimate that the system has a 50-percent chance of developing into a tropical or sub-tropical depression during the next 48 hours. [National Weather Service]
    Forecasters with the National Weather Service expect the system to develop into a depression by mid-week.
  10. Mos Antenor, 42, drives a bulldozer while clearing the road after Hurricane Dorian Mclean's Town, Grand Bahama, Bahamas on Sept. 13. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) [RAMON ESPINOSA  |  AP]
    The damage estimate comes from a new report by the Inter-American Development Bank.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement