Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, FL on the Panhandle on October 10, 2018. It was the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in over 25 years, and the first Category 5 storm since Hurricane Andrew in 1995. The storm underwent rapid intensification in the Gulf of Mexico, growing from a tropical storm on October 6th to a CAT 5 by landfall.
A post storm analysis shows Michael made landfall with winds of 160 mph, giving it the CAT 5 status. Hurricane Ian in 2022 had sustained winds of 155 mph, just shy of the 157+ mph wind threshold. Michael was only the fourth Category 5 hurricane to hit the U.S., after Andrew ('92), Camille ('69) and the Labor Day Hurricane ('35). Michael was also the strongest hurricane to hit the Florida panhandle on record.
Widespread damage was seen at Tyndall AFB, Mexico Beach and Panama City, FL with many homes completely wiped away by the storm. Our field meteorologist Brett Adair was on the ground in Port St. Joe, FL during the worst of the surge and had to abandon his vehicle for higher ground.
During the storm, winds were estimated sustained at 155mph, which is a high end CAT 4 event. Post storm analysis of aircraft wind, surface wind, pressure and satellite data not available in real time showed the slightly stronger winds in the core of the storm at the time of landfall. It is not uncommon for post-storm analysis to show slightly more intense wind speeds than were reported in real time of the storm. Just last year in 2022, post storm analysis showed Hurricane Ian was a CAT 5 just ahead of landfall in SW Florida.
According to NOAA, "Category 5 winds were likely experienced over a very small area at and near the coast ... devastating winds and storm surge and was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the United States."