• Historic Hurricane Michael: How it stacks up to other U.S., Florida storms

    By: George Waldenberger and Lauren Seabrook, WFTV.com

    Updated:

    Even as the storm still rages, Hurricane Michael is already making its mark on history.

    Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle with winds of 155 miles per hour. A hurricane reaches Category 5 status when winds reach 157 miles per hour.

    Only a few storms have made landfall in the United States stronger than Hurricane Michael. Only three Category 5 storms have ever hit the continental United States; Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3, was not one of them.

    Before meteorologists and weather experts named storms, a Category 5 hurricane hit the Florida Keys on Labor Day 1935. That storm holds the record with winds of a staggering 185 miles per hour.

    The second-worst storm to hit the continental U.S. was Hurricane Camille, which hit far western Mississippi in 1969 as a Category 5 storm.

    The third-worst storm on the list is one still fresh in the minds of many Floridians: Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in August 1992. The storm tore through Homestead as a Category 5 with winds peaking at 165 miles per hour.

    That brings us to the present with Hurricane Michael, which is now the fourth-strongest hurricane in U.S. history.

    When it comes to hurricanes that hit Florida’s Panhandle, Michael’s wind speed at landfall surpassed Hurricane Opal, which was the previous record holder. Opal made landfall near Pensacola as a Category 3 in 1995.

    Nine people died in Hurricane Opal, and the damage totaled more than $4.7 billion.

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    Michael is stronger still than Hurricane Irma when it slammed into the Keys in 2017 with winds of 130 miles per hour – and Michael’s winds are three times stronger than what Central Florida experienced from Irma.

    One comparison that will resonate with people is to last year’s “M” hurricane, Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and killed thousands. Maria made landfall over southeast Puerto Rico with winds of 155 miles per hour – the same intensity as Michael when it hit Mexico Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, though the eye of Maria was slightly larger, which allowed for more widespread damage.

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