NOAA now says Hurricane Michael was a Category 5 when it made landfall in Panhandle

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Scientists at the National Hurricane Center now say Hurricane Michael was a Category 5 storm when it made landfall in Florida's Panhandle last October.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made the announcement Friday after conducting a "detailed post-storm analysis" of all of the data available from the storm, which came ashore near Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base on October 10, 2018.

That research determined the storm made landfall at 160 miles per hour, making it a Category 5 instead of the original Category 4 determination.

The change makes Michael the first Category 5 hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and only the fourth landfalling Category 5 on record.

The storm was directly responsible for 16 deaths and approximately $25 billion in damage in the U.S., NOAA said.


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Last year, meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center estimated the storm's intensity at 155 miles per hour, which just missed the cutoff for Category 5 status. But scientists said their "final best track intensity estimate" of 160 miles per hour was determined after a review of available aircraft winds, surface winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates and Doppler radar velocities.

"The 5 knot (5 mph) increase in the estimated maximum sustained wind speed from the operational estimate is small and well within the normal range of uncertainty," NOAA said on its website.