Gulf of Mexico
Hurricane Michael devastated Mexico Beach as shown in this photo taken on Oct. 10, 2018. (Via U.S. Coast Guard)

Scientists Upgrade Hurricane Michael To Category 5

After months spent poring over data, the National Hurricane Center announced that it has upgraded Hurricane Michael to a rare Category 5.

MIAMI, FL -- After months spent poring over data, the National Hurricane Center on Friday announced that it has upgraded Hurricane Michael to a rare Category 5 Storm at the time Michael slammed into the U.S. coast near Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Michael becomes the first Category 5 to make landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and only the fourth on record.

"As part of this process, we go back and examine all of the available data after the storm and make adjustments to the track and intensity of the storm through its life cycle," Dr. Michael J. Brennan, branch chief of the Hurricane Specialist Unit in Miami told Patch on Friday. See also Below-Average Atlantic Hurricane Season Predicted

"For Michael, the final peak intensity was determined by a review of all of the available data, which included aircraft winds, surface winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates, and Doppler radar velocities," said Brennan, adding that scientists routinely conduct a reanalysis of every storm each year. "This also included data and analyses that were not available in real time."

Category 5 storms have winds of 157 mph or higher. Scientists determined that Michael's intensity at landfall was 160 mph, which is 5 mph higher than the previous real-time operational estimate of the storm's Florida landfall on Oct. 10, 2018. The National Hurricane Center is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Category 5 winds were likely experienced over a very small area at -- and near the coast -- and the change in estimated wind speeds is of little practical significance in terms of the impacts associated with the storm," scientists said in announcing the change.

But the new classification puts Michael in rarefied -- but infamous - company along with only three other storms: Andrew, the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969 with respect to the other Category 5 storms to strike the United States.

"Michael is also the strongest hurricane landfall on record in the Florida Panhandle and only the second known category 5 landfall on the northern Gulf coast," said the National Hurricane Center.

Michael caused an estimated $25 billion in damage to the U.S. and was responsible for 16 deaths.

"It's not unusual for a report for a major land falling hurricane to take several months to complete, since we also have to also compile all of the fatality, damage and impact information from the storm for the report," Brennan added.

Before hitting the United States, the cyclone brought hurricane-force winds to the western tip of Cuba when it was a category 2 Hurricane.

In general, the lower a storm's central pressure, the higher the winds. Michael's central pressure of 919 millibars (mb) at landfall is the third lowest on record for a landfalling U. S. hurricane since reliable records began in 1900, trailing only the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 (892 mb) and Hurricane Camille of 1969 (900 mb), according to scientists.

Hurricane storm strength is based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Michael is also the strongest hurricane landfall on record in the Florida Panhandle and only the second known category 5 landfall on the northern Gulf coast