Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on November 1, 2018.

‘Absolute Monster’

Hurricane Michael, the second major hurricane of 2018, tests preparedness and response


On October 11, Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle, turning entire neighborhoods into piles of rubble, washing away roads, and mangling swaths of forest. As of late October, the death toll stood at 39, including deaths in states north of Florida.

As a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained wind speeds over 150 mph, Michael was one for the record books. “Michael made history by intensifying at a mind-boggling pace,” The Washington Post reported. In just three days, Michael went from a tropical depression to an extremely strong Category 4 hurricane, with wind speeds just 1 mph shy of a Category 5, according to the Post. It ranks in the top four strongest storms to ever hit the coast of the United States.

In a press conference the day after the storm rolled through the Panhandle, Florida Governor Rick Scott told reporters it had caused “unimaginable destruction” that would forever change the area. “So many lives have been changed forever, so many families have lost everything,” he said. “Homes are gone, businesses are gone. Roads and infrastructure along the storm’s path have been destroyed. This hurricane was an absolute monster.”

The photograph above shows Mexico Beach, one of the hardest-hit Panhandle communities in the path of the storm.

Although Michael was a more powerful storm, early estimates suggest Hurricane Florence, which collided with the Carolinas in September as a Category 1 hurricane, inflicted more damage in part due to how slowly it moved. According to published reports, early estimates of the damage caused by Florence ranged from $38 billion to $50 billion, while the estimate for Michael was about $4.5 billion. More than 40 people were reported killed as a result of Hurricane Florence.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: Getty Images