A post analysis shows the storm was stronger than originally thought, with winds at landfall estimated to be 160 miles per hour - making Michael one of only four Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States, according to the scientists.
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 20: A vehicle drives past trees broken by Hurricane Michael on October 20, 2018 in Panama City, Florida.
Scientists at NOAA's National Hurricane Center performed a detailed post-storm analysis on Hurricane Michael's data and determined that the storm's estimated intensity at landfall near Mexico Beach and the Tyndall Air Force Base was 160 miles per hour, which puts its winds in the top category over a small at and near the Florida coast.
That research determined the storm made landfall at 160 miles per hour, making it a Category 5 instead of the original Category 4 determination. They've determined that its estimated intensity at landfall was 160 miles per hour (257 kph), a 5 miles per hour (8 kph) increase over the operational estimate used last fall, NOAA said in a news release.
NHC noted, "This change in the estimated wind speed is of little practical significance in terms of the impacts associated with the storm there".
This makes Hurricane Michael the first category 5 to hit the United States since 1992's Hurricane Andrew.
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Michael's winds were so strong the hurricane blew over a train in Panama City Beach.
"The final best track intensity estimate of 140 knots (160 mph) was determined by a review of the available aircraft winds, surface winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates and Doppler radar velocities - including data and analyses that were not available in real time", the hurricane center said. The causes included falls during the post-storm clean up, traffic accidents and medical issues compounded by the hurricane.
"You still ride through our city and it's depressing", Cathey said, adding that they've dealt with 1 million cubic yards (0.76 million cubic meters) of debris.
Despite that, Michael's landfall winds were tied with the San Felipe 1928 hurricane - when it struck Puerto Rico - as the fourth highest of any USA state or territorial landfall since 1900.
Camille in 1969 was the only other northern Gulf Coast Category 5 landfall.