Hurricane Michael 10-8-2018
October 8, 2018
From Tropical Storm to Hurricane
Hurricane Michael formed this morning while moving into the Yucatan Channel. The storm has tracked to the north-northeast over the past 24 hours and the core of the cyclone is currently passing across the western tip of Cuba. An expansive ridge of high pressure will cause Michael to continue tracking to the north over the next 24 to 36 hours, with landfall occurring along the Florida Panhandle sometime between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.
Significant forecast challenges remain, as the exact landfall location remains unclear. The official forecast takes the center of the storm near and east of Panama City, but the latest ensemble model guidance takes the center of the storm a bit further west. At this point, all interests between Pensacola, FL and Apalachicola, FL should be making initial preparations for direct impacts from Michael.
The intensity forecast for Michael is tricky as well. Despite enhanced wind shear across the region, the system has flourished over the past 24 hours across the extremely warm waters of the western Caribbean. Modeled wind shear across the eastern Gulf of Mexico remains moderate over the next 24 to 48 hours, but satellite imagery downstream of the storm indicates that shear may be a bit lower than anticipated. Lower shear combined with deep, warm water across the eastern Gulf all point to Michael becoming a major hurricane and making landfall as such this week.
Conditions offshore have already begun to deteriorate, with 30 mph easterly winds and 8 feet seas noted at a buoy off the Florida Panhandle. These conditions will continue to increase as Michael moves through the eastern Gulf, with seas likely exceeding 40 feet east of the storm center by Wednesday morning. West of the Mississippi Delta, enhanced swells will push wave heights to 10 feet in deep water off the central and western coast of Louisiana, with 6 to 7 foot seas becoming likely off of Texas.
Future of Hurricane Michael
As we move through the next 24 hours, the forecast challenges for Hurricane Michael will become clearer. Regardless of the exact track, a high impact landfall appears to be likely for portions of the Florida Panhandle, with additional significant impacts expected offshore.