Hurricane Michael Enters Next Phase of Destruction

School buses stand ready in the background, to help in Michael response efforts by the Florida National Guard. Photo Credit: DVIDS.

Hurricane Michael, now downgraded, continued on its northeast trajectory today, moving into the Carolinas and Virginia. Warnings of tornadoes occurring in central and eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia were issued by the National Hurricane Center.

“Michael will continue to have widespread impacts on transportation throughout the eastern U.S. today, both due to its direct impacts from wind and rain, as well as its lingering effects in the hard-hit portions of the eastern Gulf Coast,” noted Kepler51 Analytics on Thursday.

Kepler also observed that any type of road transportation in the most heavily impacted areas along the eastern Gulf Coast is near impossible due to road blockages, flooding and road damage. “Roads and highways directly along the coastline stretching from Panama City to Apalachicola, Florida are expected to remain impassable for the next several days as cleanup and repair processes are completed, particularly along U.S. Route 98, which sustained heavy damage from the storm surge of Michael,” Keppler reported. “Even after roads are reopened, transportation throughout these areas is likely to remain very limited for at least the next couple of weeks.”

The U.S. National Hurricane Center reported on Thursday that, “The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. … Gale- to storm-force winds are expected over portions of SE Virginia, extreme NE North Carolina, and the Delmarva Peninsula. Michael is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 4 to 7 inches [in those areas]. Isolated maximum totals of 9 inches are possible in North Carolina and Virginia. This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods. Rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches [are] expected across the central Appalachians into the mid-Atlantic and southern New England.”

Also, a second fatality was announced Thursday morning.

Developments This Week

Hurricane Michael arrived early Wednesday afternoon in Florida at Category 4 strength, sporting 155 mph winds, gusts up to 175 mph, and the promise of far too much water. Flash floods, difficult or nonexistent transportation of all kinds—and likely catastrophic wind damage, were expected. At 8 p.m. EDT, the first fatality from a fallen tree was reported by local officials in Gadsden County.

At 7:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, the NWS described Michael as “extremely dangerous.” NWS noted that “impacts of damaging winds, heavy rain and tornadoes will be felt from Florida to well inland over the Southeast, as Michael moves northeast ahead of a strong cold front the next two days.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott “issued dire, final warnings to those still along the coast: it is too late to get out. Seek shelter.”

Michael is the third most-intense cyclone to hit the U.S. The Panhandle has not been hit with a Category 4 hurricane since records were first kept in 1851.

Key Points from the National Hurricane Center:

  • Life-threatening storm surge is occurring along portions of the Florida Panhandle, Big Bend and Nature Coast. The worst storm surge was expected Thursday evening between Tyndall Air Force Base and Keaton Beach, where 9-14 feet of inundation was possible.
  • Michael will produce potentially catastrophic wind damage where the core of the hurricane moves onshore later today in the Florida Panhandle, with the highest risk between Apalachicola and Panama City.
  • Life-threatening hurricane-force winds will occur well-inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, SE Alabama, and SW Georgia, as the core of the hurricane moves inland later today and this evening.
  • Heavy rainfall from Michael could produce life-threatening flash flooding from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region, into portions of Georgia, Carolinas and SE Virginia.
  • Tropical storm conditions will affect portions of the SE U.S. coast from NE Florida through North Carolina, and tropical storm warnings are in effect for these areas.

Announced School Closures

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service had already referred to Michael as a “life-threatening” major hurricane before it even slammed into the Florida Panhandle.

NWS warned that “Significant hazards and impacts are expected, including hurricane-force winds, life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall and severe weather with tornadoes. Also, a strong storm system continues to produce heavy to excessive rain and widespread flooding in the central US.”

A tropical storm warning was issued for Fernandina Beach in Florida, to South Santee River in South Carolina.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio meets with FEMA officials to discuss Michael.
The U.S. National Weather Service operations.
NWS satellite photo of Michael that was posted Oct. 11.