Hurricane MICHAEL: the aftermath!

Hurricane MICHAEL ran out of ocean before it could intensify any farther, but still managed to make landfall as the strongest category 4 hurricane, borderline with a cat 5 storm, in the Florida Panhandle region on 10 October 2018.

Satellite view (NOAA) of Hurricane Michael just before making landfall in the Florida Panhandle on 10 October 2018

The rapid intensification Michael underwent as it traversed the Gulf of Mexico in its final approach toward Florida is not that unusual. We have in fact witnessed similar occurrences with other storms reaching the northern Gulf. The shape and bathymetry of the Gulf, the so-called “loop current” that swishes around the Gulf before feeding the gulfstream over the Atlantic, and the fact that surface waters in the basin were rather warm at about 30+ Celsius, were all contributors to such rapid intensification.

What is somewhat unusual is that  Hurricane Michael decayed in intensity as expected after landfall and moving inland, but remained at tropical storm strength despite being deprived of its main source of energy, the warm surface waters of the Gulf, and being at times more than 360 kilometers (~225 miles) from the ocean, managing to travel some 1200 kilometers (750 miles) overland before exiting back over the Atlantic and re-strengthening. It is clear the tropical cyclone derived enough energy from the saturated atmosphere and waterlogged ground to remain a tropical storm during this trek over land. Amazing indeed, and something to explore by those who study cyclogenesis, and the exacerbating effects of global warming on hydro-meteorological hazards.

Projected track of Hurricane Michael (courtesy of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory) as on 10/10/2018

The headlines and media coverage following the impact of Michael, as expected, are full of photos showing the destruction and damage caused by Michael as well as articles describing and/or questioning what worked and what did not, and what to expect in the future.

There is plenty of topics and material to write about in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. At the moment what is most important, in my opinion, is to treat this event as an opportunity to learn from the survivors, meaning both the human beings and the buildings and infrastructure that managed to remain intact and functional.  What we empirically learn from studying these surviving buildings can provide invaluable lessons to guide future decisions regarding rebuilding efforts, building codes, and hazard mitigation solutions to prevent a repeat of the level of damage next time a hurricane comes calling on the affected region, or elsewhere.

Relative to the above please read the article by Daniel Cusick, published by EE News’ Climate Wire featuring an interview with yours truly and others about Hurricane Michael and its consequences on Mexico Beach, which is being called “ground zero” because of the level of damage and destruction it suffered.

You can get to the article by using the following URL:

There is a lot to learn and even more to write and talk about when it comes to Hurricane Michael.

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