Michael, most vi­o­lent US hur­ri­cane since 1969

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - World News -

FLOR­IDA. — Hur­ri­cane Michael, which tore into Flor­ida on Wed­nes­day, went in just two days from trop­i­cal storm sta­tus to a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane, on a scale with a max­i­mum of five.

Here are some fig­ures which il­lus­trate the power of Michael on the con­ti­nen­tal United States and which “took fore­cast­ers by sur­prise”, ac­cord­ing to Phil Klotzbach, a re­search sci­en­tist in the De­part­ment of At­mo­spheric Sci­ence at Colorado State Uni­ver­sity.

“This came out of nowhere, de­vel­oped on a week­end so it didn’t re­ally get much at­ten­tion at all un­til ba­si­cally yes­ter­day,” he said.

Michael hit Flor­ida with wind speeds of 250km/h, plac­ing it al­most into Cat­e­gory 5 scale, which starts at 252km/h.

The most pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane on record to hit Flor­ida’s Pan­han­dle has left wide de­struc­tion and at least one per­son dead as it crossed Ge­or­gia to­ward the Caroli­nas.

Never in recorded weather his­tory has a hur­ri­cane hit the main­land United States at such a speed in Oc­to­ber, the month mark­ing the end of the June to Novem­ber hur­ri­cane sea­son.

Look­ing at the en­tire hur­ri­cane sea­son, Michael had the strong­est winds since 1992 and Hur­ri­cane An­drew.

Only two other storms in recorded Amer­i­can weather his­tory - that is, since 1851 - had stronger winds. They were in 1969 and 1935.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gists use an­other mea­sure to eval­u­ate hur­ri­cane in­ten­sity: Cen­tral pres­sure.

This is pre­ferred by Klotzbach, who ex­plains that it is more pre­cise for his­tor­i­cal com­par­isons be­cause it is mea­sured pre­cisely by an air­plane fly­ing in the mid­dle of the storm’s eye, whereas “wind is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent ev­ery­where along the hur­ri­cane.”

“The pres­sure gives an idea of the size of the storm,” he said.

Mea­sured in this way - the lower the pres­sure the stronger the hur­ri­cane - Michael was the most pow­er­ful since Hur­ri­cane Camille in 1969.

In any case, no mat­ter how you mea­sure it, Michael is among the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­canes in re­cent me­mory along with Camille in 1969, An­drew in 1992 and Ka­t­rina in 2005.

The cal­cu­la­tion changes if you take into ac­count Puerto Rico, the US is­land ter­ri­tory in the Caribbean that was dev­as­tated by Hur­ri­cane Maria last year. The death toll was re­vised to 2 975 fa­tal­i­ties, ei­ther in the storm it­self or later as the health care and util­i­ties grids failed.

In terms of dam­age the most costly year was 2017, when be­sides the Caribbean sev­eral US coastal states were hit by pow­er­ful hur­ri­canes that moved slowly and dumped record rain­ful for days.

Ma­jor cities such as Hous­ton were flooded, caus­ing as much as $300bn in dam­age, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates.

The bill for 2018 is not yet known. It was a rel­a­tively calm year ex­cept for hur­ri­canes Michael and Florence last month.

In the case of Michael the dam­age will be mainly from wind rather than rain. — AFP

Hur­ri­cane Michael strength­ens to Cat­e­gory 4

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