Scientists now say Hurricane Michael was a Category 5 storm at the time of US landfall

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Hurricane Michael, which barreled into the Fl...

Posted: Apr 19, 2019 3:46 PM

Hurricane Michael, which barreled into the Florida Panhandle in October, was actually a Category 5 storm when it hit the coast, scientists at the National Hurricane Center said Friday.

A post analysis shows the storm was stronger than originally thought, with winds at landfall estimated at 160 mph -- making Michael one of only four Category 5 hurricanes to touch down in the US, according to the scientists.

The storm was originally designated as a Category 4, with 155 mph winds, when it made landfall on October 10 near Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, the hurricane center said in a statement.

"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," the statement said.

The new estimate of 160 mph winds was made after a review of "available aircraft winds, surface winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates and Doppler radar velocities -- including data and analyses that were not available in real time," the hurricane center said.

Researchers predict slightly below-average Atlantic hurricane season

Aerial footage after the storm showed massive damage and destruction in coastal cities in the Panhandle, such as Mexico Beach and Panama City Beach.

Michael's deadly trail of devastation stretched from the Florida Panhandle to the Carolinas, where it triggered flash floods that turned roads into rivers.

It was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the United States, according to the hurricane center.

After the hurricane, officials in four Southern US states reported at least 32 storm-related deaths, according to a CNN count.

Michael was the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States as a Category 5 since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The others were Camille in 1969 and the Labor Day hurricane in 1935.

Michael is the strongest hurricane landfall on record in the Florida Panhandle, and only the second known Category 5 landfall on the northern Gulf coast, according to the hurricane center.

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