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Michael Continues to Intensify; will make Landfall Wednesday as a Major Hurricane

Figure 1. IR satellite image of Michael from 02:57 UTC 10/9/18 | Credit: NASA

Michael continues to intensify this evening, and will make landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as a major hurricane.

10 PM CDT advisory info: 

Location: 23.2°N 85.3°W
Moving: N at 12 mph
Min pressure: 970 mb
Max sustained: 90 mph


Analysis: 

The overall structure of Michael has improved today, with an eye now looking to clear on infrared satellite imagery. There area also some -80° to -90° (C) cloud tops near the center, indicating very deep convection. A reconnaissance aircraft has also found  max flight level winds in excess of 102 kts and a pressure of 969 millibars .


Model guidance: 

All three of the reliable global models still have Michael becoming a category 3. The global models have also come into better agreement on timing and landfall location.

If blank, model image not available

Figure 2. GEFS projected mean pressure and low centers at noon Wednesday | Credit: Weatherbell

The ECMWF (euro) is now predicting landfall about midway between Destin, FL and Panama City, FL Wednesday afternoon.

The GFS is now predicting landfall in Panama City late Wednesday/early Thursday.

The UKMET is now predicting landfall near Apalachicola, FL Wednesday morning.

The euro ensembles (EPS) and GFS ensembles (EPS) are now in better agreement too, with most members clustered on a landfall between Destin and Panama City Wednesday afternoon/evening (see figure 2).

As of now, the consensus is for landfall to occur between Destin and Panama City sometime on Wednesday.


Our thoughts: 

Track: Michael has emerged into the Gulf. A generally north to north-northwest heading is likely through tomorrow. By Wednesday, the upper trough should start to influence the storm and cause a north-northeast to north-east turn. When exactly this turn happens depends on the speed of Michael, and will dictate where landfall occurs. Michael will accelerate off to the north and east after landfall.

cone graphic

Figure 3. Forecast track from Michael as of the 10 PM CDT advisory from 10/8/18.

Right now landfall is most likely between Destin and Panama City/Apalachicola (see figure 3).

Intensity: Westerly wind shear is still in the 15 – 20 kts range, and now looks like it could remain in that range up through landfall per the latest SHIPS intensity guidance. However, this should not impede further strengthening, as Michael has still strengthened today despite shear being in this range.

The relatively neutral shear combined with the fact Michael will be moving over very warm sea surface temperatures should allow for rapid intensification tomorrow. Michael will more than likely become a major hurricane tomorrow, and make landfall as at least a low-end category 3.


Impacts: Michael will bring catastrophic impacts to the Florida Gulf Coast:

  • Hurricane force winds will be likely in the warning area (see figure 3) near the point of landfall (likely in excess of 100 mph in the eye-wall). Hurricane force wind gusts and sustained tropical storm force winds will also be possible in the hurricane warning area away from the center.

 

  • Storm surge up to and in excess of 10′ will be likely east of the center — especially in the Big Bend area.

 

  • Heavy rain will also be likely closer to the center of the storm, with the latest forecast from the Weather Prediction Center calling for accumulations of 6 – 10″.

 

  • Seas could reach 15 – 25′ offshore.

Interests from Pensacola, FL to the Big Bend of FL should continue to closely monitor the progress of  Michael and complete preparations by tomorrow.


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About Caleb Carmichael

Owner and forecaster at Gulf Coast Storm Center and Florida Panhandle Weather • Skywarn storm spotter • Not (yet) a meteorologist • Follow me on Twitter @WX_Caleb

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