#12 | POSTED BY HUMTAKE
Supercharged by abnormally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday with potentially catastrophic winds of 155 mph, the most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in nearly 50 years.
"I've had to take antacids I'm so sick to my stomach today because of this impending catastrophe," National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake tweeted as the storm -- drawing energy from the unusually warm, 84-degree Gulf waters -- became more menacing.
As Michael approached land, meteorologists struggled to find words to describe it. On Twitter, the National Weather Service said, in all caps, "THIS IS A WORST CASE SCENARIO." The hurricane's winds and waves were so strong, their rumblings were detected on seismometers -- equipment designed to measure earthquakes. Michael is expected to produce storm surge -- typically the deadliest part of any hurricane -- of up to 14 feet, smashing local records.
No storm remotely this strong has ever hit this part of Florida. The previously strongest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle had winds of 125 mph, 30 mph weaker than Michael's. The local National Weather Service office in Tallahassee issued a chilling warning that Michael was "not comparable to anything we have seen before."
In the hours before landfall, Michael rapidly intensified, strengthening from a Category 1 to a strong Category 4 in less than 36 hours -- consistent with recent research on climate change's impact on storms. Michael did this after passing over unusually warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, which likely helped to increase the storm's moisture content and provide fuel for more intense thunderstorms, a deeper central pressure, and stronger winds. Sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico have risen by about a foot over the past 100 years, so there's a direct link between Michael's coastal flooding and long-term climate change.