Monster hurricane Michael, which decimated the Florida panhandle last October, is now rated at the top of the scale for classifying these destructive storms.
The National Hurricane Center announced Friday that it had reclassified Michael as a Category 5, up from a Category 4, when it made landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla.
The storm came ashore on the afternoon of Oct. 10, 2018, near Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force base, with winds of 140 knots, or 160 mph, the Hurricane Center determined. Category 5, the strongest on the 1-5 Saffir-Simpson scale, begins at 157 mph. Its winds were previously estimated at 155 mph, a high-end Category 4.
Michael thus becomes the first storm to make landfall as a Category 5 in the United States since Andrew struck southern Florida in August 1992 (Andrew was also upgraded from a Category 4 to a 5 in post-storm analysis). Michael was blamed for 49 deaths and more than $5.5 billion in damage.
The Hurricane Center notes that Michael now ranks as the fourth-strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in the United States, trailing only the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
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 U.S. shores.