Hurricane watches were flying for the Florida Panhandle as rapidly intensifying Hurricane Michael headed northward over the warm waters of the Western Caribbean. Michael is expected to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as a Category 3 hurricane.
Michael is the 13th named storm and 7th hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. It is destined to become the fourth named storm to hit the U.S. this year, and most likely the strongest at landfall. The other three were Subtropical Storm Alberto (May 28 near Pensacola, FL), Category 1 Hurricane Florence (September 14 near Wrightsville Beach, NC), and Tropical Storm Gordon (September 4 near the MS/AL border). On average, the U.S. is hit by three named storms each year, with one of them being a hurricane.
Satellite images on Monday morning showed that Michael had improved significantly in organization, with an impressive area of very heavy thunderstorms with cloud tops that were as cold as –80°C (–112°F). Cloud tops this cold can only occur if the updrafts pushing them upwards are very vigorous. Michael was beginning to close off an eye, and low-level spiral banding was improving. Michael was under a moderately high 15 – 20 knots of wind shear, due to strong upper-level winds out of the west from an upper-level trough of low pressure. The storm was embedded in a moist atmosphere with a mid-level relative humidity of 70%, and was over very warm waters of 29.5°C (85°F). These warm waters extended quite deep, and had an extremely high heat content.
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SOURCE: Weather Underground – Dr. Jeff Masters