Hurricane Michael continues to intensify in the eastern Gulf of Mexico with a track that takes it through the eastern central Florida Panhandle. This is expected to be a major storm at the time of landfall, which is approaching quickly. Since many of us have interests along the Gulf Coast here’s a complete rundown on what to expect with Michael.
There are not expected to be any impacts here in Acadiana outside of a slight rise in seas and choppy conditions along the coast. The worst of that rise will be on the eastern shores of Louisiana, but none-the-less there is a Coastal Flood Advisory in effect for the state. The Gulf of Mexico will also be very churned up this week and the seas will be choppy.
The majority of the impacts will be felt along the Florida Coastline, mostly east of the Sandestin area and stretching into the Big Bend. Hurricane Warnings are in effect for the entire Panhandle of Florida with a Tropical Storm Warning for coastal Alabama, and Tropical Storm Watches for Mississippi. The watches and warnings will not stretch into Louisiana.
Looking at the wind field one of the things that stands out is how narrow it is with the worst winds fairly concentrated to the center. That being said there will be areas that could see winds up to 120 mph near the eye of the storm which could pack a major punch between Panama City and Apalachicola and even spread north into Tallahassee. Winds this strong will be capable of picking up lose items and throwing them around, especially around Tallahassee which is full of old oak trees which will be at risk of falling. Those west of Destin will get tropical storm forced winds for several hours starting overnight Tuesday and lasting until Wednesday afternoon when the storm hooks east.
The greatest threat for this storm will be the storm surge with catastrophic storm surge expected from Port St. Joe through the entire Big Bend of Florida. A 15-20 ft storm surge will be anticipated miles inland, all the way north of St. Marks. The way the coast is designed and a shallow and long continental shelf will funnel water into the Big Bend and up into many of the rivers and tributaries. Anyone who lives in these communities need to leave by Tuesday afternoon when the water will start to increase. The further west you go the more improvements there are with 5-8 ft through Panama City and 2-3 ft from Destin to the Florida/Alabama border.
It there’s any sort of bright side it’s that this storm is moving fairly quickly so it won’t linger long, which means additional rainfall won’t be a major issue for the coast. It will bring a lot more rain into Appalachia and the Carolinas which are still dealing with the fall out from Florence. The storm should clear into the Atlantic by the weekend, however, which will help prevent widespread inland flooding.