Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, FL around 1:40 PM this afternoon as a very strong Category 4 storm with winds sustained at 155 MPH. (Keep in mind, a Category 5 hurricane is 157 MPH+.)
Michael has weakened slightly, down to a Category 3 hurricane with winds at 125 MPH. Still a major hurricane..
This storm will continue on a north-northeast track through Georgia, then towards the Carolinas. Due to the friction of the land, Michael will continue to weaken, likely downgrading to a tropical storm by the time it reaches South Carolina.
The NHC track takes Michael directly over Hampton Roads Thursday night. This graphic shows Michael maintaining tropical storm strength, but I do question how Michael will interact with the approaching cold front from the northwest. It’s quite possible that Michael will start becoming subtropical, meaning that the strongest winds and heaviest rain start to move away from the center of the storm. (Similar to what happened with Hurricane Matthew as it was offshore of North Carolina.)
Either way, we will be dealing with heavy rain and strong winds for a period of time (5 PM-2 AM). We will see some passing showers overnight into Thursday morning, but steadier rain will take over by tomorrow evening, right around commute time.
It still looks like the higher rainfall totals will be north of the Metro, towards Richmond/Petersburg, but a slight wobble in the track could change that.
Expected rainfall totals:
NC/OBX – 1/2″ to 1.5″
Southside – 1-2.5″
Peninsula – 2-3″
Middle Peninsula – 2-4″
Eastern Shore – 2-4″
Northern Neck – 4-6″
Some locally higher amounts are possible with isolated downpours. I can’t rule out an isolated tornado or two, but it’s not too likely.
In addition to the rain, you’ll notice the wind picking up tomorrow evening.
By 9 PM, winds will be sustained out of the south and southeast between 20-30 MPH, with gusts to 40-50 MPH. As the cold front comes through and pushes Michael away, winds will switch out of the west and northwest. (Notice in the graphic above, you can see the center of the storm over Wakefield, Suffolk, and Ahoskie.)
Winds will still be strong early Friday morning, holding steady between 25 to 35 MPH, with gusts to 50-60 MPH. A *HIGH WIND WARNING* will be in effect for the coastal areas. Tidal flooding will not be a big concern, but I wouldn’t rule out some sound side flooding along the Outer Banks and northern cities and towns along the Albemarle Sound.
By the time you head out the door Friday morning, this storm will be gone. That’s the slightest silver lining with this storm – it’s moving quickly – it’s not going to linger around causing damage for days like Florence did.
Chief Meteorologist Don Slater will have another update at 10 & 11 PM, then Meteorologist Jeremy Wheeler will have the latest starting at 4:30 Thursday morning.
-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor