USA – Hurricane Michael Storm Surge Causes Flooding in Florida

Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday 10 October near Mexico Beach, Florida, with top sustained winds reaching 155 miles per hour (249 kph).

Michael is one of the strongest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the United States and described by Florida Governor Rick Scott as the “worst storm the Florida Panhandle has ever seen.”

Hurricane Michael. Image: NASA

TV and Social Media images showed massive wind damage, heavily damaged buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines. Local media report that at least two people have been killed by wind damage
in Georgia.

As of late 10 October, more than 400,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Coastal areas of Florida’s Panhandle region also saw severe flooding from storm surge, including Apalachicola and Panama City. Some homes were submerged in floodwaters up to their roofs in Mexico Beach.

State of Emergency and Evacuations

On 07 October, Florida Governor Scott declared a state of emergency in 26 Florida counties, and expanded it to include 35 counties total the following day.

Florida’s State Emergency Response Team estimates that more than 375,000 Floridians have been ordered to evacuate.

There was some concern from disaster officials that many residents had not evacuated in good time. Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long warned via Social Media “Those who stay to witness storm surge don’t live to tell the tale. If told to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Michael do so now while there’s time,” adding “Do NOT ignore evacuation orders from local officials. You’re time to leave is NOW! Do NOT wait.”

Governor Scott said that, as of 10 October there were 54 shelters open with a population of nearly 6,700 people.

Storm Surge and Flooding

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that water levels at NOAA’s tide gauge in Apalachicola, Florida, reached 7.72 feet / 2.35 metres above high tide after storm surge from Hurricane Michael. This breaks the record set in 2005 from Hurricane Dennis.

In Panama City, water levels reached 5.305 feet / 1.62 metres above high tide.

The storm surge warning has since been discontinued for the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Storm surge in Panama City FL. Image: NOAA
Storm surge in Apalachicola, FL. Image: NOAA

Rainfall

Some heavy rain has already fallen in parts of Florida and Georgia, and more has been forecast by the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Tallahassee recorded 82 mm of rain in 24 hours to 11 October, Atlanta 89.3 mm and Macon 82.3 mm.

As of 11 October, NHC warned: “Michael is expected to produce total rain accumulations of4 to 7 inches from eastern Georgia to the southern Mid-Atlantic states and 1 to 3 inches over the northern Mid-Atlantic states and coastal southern New England. Isolated maximum amounts of 9 inches are possible in North Carolina and Virginia. This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods.”

Forecast

The storm weakened as it pushed inland and has been downgraded to a tropical storm, .however, Michael is forecast to intensify as it becomes a post-tropical low over the Atlantic late on Thursday or early Friday.

As of early on 11 October, the center of Tropical Storm Michael was located between Augusta and Atlanta in Georgia, with maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 50 mph (85 km/h) with higher gusts.

NHC said “Michael is moving toward the northeast near 21 mph (33 km/h) and this motion is expected to continue with an increase in forward speed through tonight. A turn toward the east-northeast and an even faster forward speed are expected on Friday. On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move through eastern Georgia into central South Carolina this morning, then moves across portions of central and eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean by late tonight or early Friday.”

Hurricane Michael track. Image: NHC

Social Media

https://twitter.com/VOANews/status/1050749758372044800