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The fast development of Hurricane Michael

The fast development of Hurricane Michael
The fast development of Hurricane Michael
Posted at 11:27 AM, Oct 13, 2018
and last updated 2019-09-30 09:22:37-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Hurricane Michael developed quickly in the gulf. First Alert Chief Meteorologist Casanova Nurse explains why we had a shorter lead time between development and landfall. 

Why did Hurricane Michael become such a beast, so quickly? There were several factors to consider.

The northeast Gulf region has had an unusually warm early fall, with no cold fronts sweeping through until just recently. This trend allowed the Gulf water temperatures to remain in the 80s.

A persistent disturbance, an elongated gyre of circulating air and moisture generating areas of clouds and rain, was centered over the western Caribbean, a prime spot for tropical development. On October 2, the National Hurricane Center gave first hints that trouble could brew from this system.

Upper-level atmospheric winds were too fast for the wave to rapidly grow, but once it drifted north, and the upper flow lightened, the lower-level cyclone began its transformation into a potent tropical low.

Aided by very warm waters, the growing circulation became Tropical Depression 14 on October 7, on its way to turning into a potent Michael.

It avoided nearby land masses, and when the high-level wind shear was not present in the Gulf of Mexico, Michael went into high gear, quickly going from meager tropical storm to hurricane strength in 24 hours.

Michael had a clear path toward the Emerald Coast and the Big Bend area, forced northward by high pressure to its east and a swinging cold front out west. The Gulf's high-octane warm water fuel helped create a major monster that would not stop intensifying until slamming into Bay County.

Before hitting, its peak winds topped 155 mph, two mph shy from iconic Category 5 level, but still placing it in an exclusive class of incredibly strong land falling hurricanes like Camille, Andrew, and the Labor Day 1935 storm in the Florida Keys.