Michael, which devastated Florida's Mexico Beach when it made landfall on October 10, becomes the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States as a Cat 5 since Hurricane Andrew brought "destruction at dawn" to South Miami-Dade in August 1992. "These category 5 winds were likely experienced over only a very small area and near the coast near the landfall location, and this change in the estimated wind speed is of little practical significance in terms of the impacts associated with the storm there".
Before Andrew there was Hurricane Camille in 1969, which made landfall at Pass Christian, Mississippi, on August 18, 1969, three days after hitting Cuba as a Category 2.
It is now officially the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States as a Category 5 since Hurricane Andrew, which struck near Miami in 1992, according to the Hurricane Center.
It also becomes the third hurricane to strike Florida as a Category 5, and its October landfall made it the latest a storm this strong has ever struck United States shores.
Debate quickly emerged about the storm's strength, and scientists at NOAA's National Hurricane Center have announced on Friday that Hurricane Michael has been upgraded to a Category 5 storm, the highest possible category, after previously being listed as a Category 4 storm.
"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. Much of Panama City remains without electricity or running water since Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on October 10, as a category 4 storm, causing massive damage and claiming around 30 lives.
It was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the USA, according to the hurricane center. "It's just another number", Cathey said Friday. Both categories are considered catastrophic. "We still don't have a pretty face". The storm still packed hurricane force winds through Georgia, and it had winds upwards 60-75 miles per hour as it worked its way up the Eastern seaboard states of Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.
For the non-profit group Michael's Angels, who have been advocating for more relief money, they said it shows they are slowly making a difference. S. hurricane since reliable records began in 1900, trailing only the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 (892 mb) and Hurricane Camille of 1969 (900 mb).