As of Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Michael continues to strengthen and is a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which is used to estimate hurricane strength.
On Monday, our Early Warning Weather Team had mentioned conditions looked favorable for Michael to strengthen all the way to a major, Category 3 storm before it makes landfall Wednesday in the Florida panhandle. The National Hurricane Center forecast is now also projecting a major hurricane strike.
If Michael does, indeed, hit as a major hurricane, it would be the first major hurricane strike for Florida Pandhandle since the very active tropical season of 2005. That devastating season featured storms like Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
Our exclusive, built-in-house guidance suggests the point of landfall Wednesday will be the town of Port St. Joe, Florida. Regardless, storm surge and wind damage will be the biggest threats to the coast.
While 10 to 20 inches of rain are possible over Florida’s panhandle, amounts will be closer to half a foot in the Carolinas. That's enough for some flooding, but nowhere near the epic rainfall and resulting catastrophic flooding a stalled Florence dumped earlier this season.
Here in New England, the cold front staged to sweep through on Thursday will be more than sufficient to pick up Michael and sweep him out to sea to our south.
While our Early Warning Weather Team strongly believes the wind associated with Michael will remain southeast of New England, there are two noteworthy points: 1) Our South Coast will get windy Thursday evening ahead of the cold front, regardless, with gusts to 45 mph possible and, 2) At some point, Michael will transition entirely to a non-tropical storm.
When that happens, the wind field tends to increase in both area and intensity. However, we expect that will be after Michael has moved far enough away from New England to spare a big blow here.
The end result for us is likely to be some enhanced rainfall Thursday to early Friday morning – perhaps lingering a bit longer on Cape Cod depending on the speed of Michael’s passage – but probably not sufficient to bring widespread flooding or anything beyond some localized nuisance flooding.