Michael 3rd most intense U.S. landfalling hurricane on record

Michael makes landfall at 919 mb central pressure

ROANOKE, Va. – With maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, Michael made landfall Wednesday afternoon as a strong Category 4 storm near Panama City, Florida. That's just 2 mph away from officially being a Category 5 hurricane. In recorded history, a storm of this intensity has never happened in the Florida Panhandle. 

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In addition, this storm had the third-lowest central air pressure of any U.S. landfalling hurricane on record. The only two other storms with more intense central air pressures were the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. 

That means Michael's pressure at landfall was lower than Maria, Katrina and Andrew. Katrina and Andrew had air pressures of 920 and 922 mb respectively.

The lower the air pressure, the less air molecules there are. The atmosphere tries to make up the balance, so air accelerates towards that void. Once that happens, wind speeds increase. So when the air pressure drops to such a point like 919 millibars, the air moves incredibly fast.

This doesn't necessarily change the forecast for our area, as we dodge areas of rain through Thursday with localized flooding possible and gusty winds at times through Friday morning.

About the Author

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.

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