Hurricane Michael Live Updates: Category 2 Storm Bears Down on Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael Live Updates: Category 2 Storm Bears Down on Florida Panhandle

“If you’re on the fence, don’t think about it,” he said. “Do it.”

In many ways, climate change has made hurricanes worse: A rise in sea level is causing higher storm surges, and warmer air is leading to rainier storms.

With Hurricane Michael, local geography also has a role to play in the storm’s impact.

If the predictions of its path hold, the hurricane will be the first to hit this area since Hurricane Hermine in 2016, said Jamie Rhome, a storm surge specialist at the National Hurricane Center. That storm was a Category 1. Hurricane Michael is expected to strike land as a Category 3, a major storm with wind speeds of 111 to 129 m.p.h. That’s enough to uproot trees and tear off roof decking.

Wind, while a source of destruction in storms, is not the only threat. Surge can devastate coastal communities, and the rain dumped by storms can cause flooding far inland. Mr. Rhome noted that while this hurricane’s path was still not certain, its probable impact at the bend of Florida on the way into the Panhandle could be very destructive. “It’s an incredibly vulnerable spot,” he said. “Regardless of whether the track moves a little to the left or the right, or wobbles,” he said, “it’s going to be a bad storm surge event for somebody.”

[Here’s our guide to how hurricanes are classified and why a change in category doesn’t tell the whole story.]

Rick Luettich, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina, said that the area was especially susceptible to a large storm surge because of its “funnel-shaped geometry and broad, shallow continental shelf.”

If there is good news, he said it’s that the area of possible impact “is not as densely populated as other parts of the Gulf Coast, and therefore the human consequences of such a large surge should be less severe than if it hit further west on the Florida Panhandle or further east,” in say, Tampa.

[Does it seem as if severe storms keep damaging the same areas, and those areas are simply built up again? Part of that is the way disaster funding works. Read about it here.]

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