Hurricane Michael is closing in on the Florida Panhandle as a strong category 4 storm with max sustained winds at 150 mph (at 11:50 am). This is an especially dangerous hurricane for the Florida Panhandle since it will arrive at or near its peak intensity. Satellite imagery shows a distinct eye and central pressure has continued to fall in recent hours and is now around 923 mb which would make this the 5th strongest landfalling hurricane in the US. Once Hurricane Michael moves inland, weakening will take place; however, hurricane-force winds should extend from the Florida Panhandle to southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia. In fact, it is likely to maintain hurricane status as it pushes into southern Georgia tonight - perhaps as a cat 2. From there Michael will head towards the Carolinas where heavy rains and strong winds will occur in an area with very well saturated grounds (Florence).
It is not often that a hurricane makes landfall at or near its peak intensity. Hurricane Florence, for example, weakened for at least 48 hours before making landfall last month in the Carolinas. Two examples of hurricanes that did arrive on land at or near peak intensity include Andrew in 1992 as a category 5 in southeastern Florida and Camille in 1969 which made landfall as a category 5 storm not too far to the west of the Florida Panhandle (Mississippi).
Hurricane Michael is being increasingly influenced by a deep upper-level trough over the central US and its direction has begun to change from a northward push to north-to-northeast and and it’ll begin to accelerate to the northeast as it becomes embedded within the mid-latitude upper-air flow while moving across the SE US.
As far as the DC-to-Philly-to-NYC corridor is concerned, there will not be a direct hit from the remains of Michael as it’ll slide southeast of here; however, there will be occasional rain on Thursday with embedded thunderstorms and some of the rain will be heavy at times. The moisture from Michael will become intertwined with a strong cold front and that will result in as much as 1-2 inches of rain in the I-95 corridor from very late tonight into early Friday.
The passage of the remnants of Michael off the coastline of SE VA or NE NC early Friday morning will act to cleanse the atmosphere around here from all of the recent unseasonable warmth and high humidity. Winds on Friday will gust to 35 mph and usher in much cooler and drier air and this big change in the weather will last right through the weekend. For the first time this season, temperatures are very likely to drop into the 40’s for overnight lows beginning late Friday night/early Saturday morning.
One final note, if interested, click here for a good source of information on Florida Panhandle hurricanes going back hundreds of years.
Meteorologist Paul Dorian
Morning video discussion: