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Lessons learned from Category 5 hurricanes

One year ago, Hurricane Michael came ashore just 230 miles from Jacksonville

Just 230 miles away, the winds inside Major Hurricane Michael were over 160 mph.
Just 230 miles away, the winds inside Major Hurricane Michael were over 160 mph.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Just one year ago, a Category 5 hurricane smashed into Mexico Beach only 230 miles west of Jacksonville. Michael made landfall with 160 mph sustained winds with gusts of 175 mph.

Today, Mexico Beach is trying to rebuild, and federal financial assistance is trickling in, but recovery is still years away.

Nearby Panama City and other areas of the Florida Panhandle are still recovering.

Michael broke the historical mold for Category 5 hurricanes

Since quality hurricane record began, in 1851, about 1,000 hurricanes have been tracked all across the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Before Michael, only three Category 5 hurricanes had hit the United States.

On September 3, 1935, an unnamed major hurricane went through the Southern Keys, killing 100s.

On August 18, 1969 hurricane Camille went into Mississippi causing a 24-foot storm surge, again killing hundreds.

On August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew ripped into South Florida but thanks to early warnings less than 50 died directly from the hurricane. 

That leaves Michael. 

Not even close to the three prior Category 5 hurricanes to impact the United States -- which had made landfall in the two-week period between Aug 18 and Sept. 2 --  Michael became and came ashore as a Category 5 hurricane on Oct. 9.

That's more than a month later than the latest Cat 5 hurricane to hit Florida.

Even more stunning, all four Category 5 hurricanes to hit the United States have one serious commonality: they were all just tropical storms 3 ½ days before they struck.

That's ridiculous.

We are thankful that Hurricane Michael was well forecasted and many folks left before Michael hit Mexico Beach. Had Michael come straight into Panama City?  We probably would have seen hundreds (instead of less than 50) die from its extreme winds and flooding.

About the Author:

Our chief meteorologist lives and breathes the weather on the First Coast.