Hurricane Michael is looking even more violent on closer scrutiny

Government scientists are still trying to take the measure of the historic storm. Although Michael was officially a Category 4 hurricane, with 155 mph sustained winds when it made landfall, that could potentially be revised upward, to Category 5 - 157 mph and higher - in the ongoing National Hurricane Center analysis.

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. - Gage Wilson and David Segal, technicians for the U.S. Geological Survey, were roaming the obliterated city of Mexico Beach when they spotted the missing sensor.

It was a barometer that USGS employees had deployed in advance of Hurricane Michael, a pressure gauge housed inside a two-inch-diameter aluminum tube. The employees had noted the specific spot where it was to measure the storm: "Barometer located on second light post from Highway 98 in pier parking lot."

But there was no more light post after Michael destroyed just about everything here with a massive storm surge and intense winds when it made landfall Oct. 10.

The USGS desperately needed that sensor to make an accurate estimate of the storm surge that barreled through Mexico Beach. Eleven days after Michael hit, demolishing most buildings in this seaside town, Wilson and Segal found the shiny cylinder, propped up vertically in front of the splintered ruins of a house as if hoping someone would find it.

Using data from that instrument and another sensor that had been nailed to a pier piling, the USGS on Oct. 25 concluded the storm surge at Mexico Beach had reached 15.55 feet, half a foot higher than the previous estimate. If you add the waves on top of the surge, the water level here reached 20.6 feet, or close to the height of a two-story building. Read full article.